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Despite Increases in Medical Mistakes, Medical Malpractice Payouts Drop starstarstarstarstar



In the face of increasing medical mistakes, brought about by less professional oversight, increased managed care, less time spent with patients and a corporate-profit-margin approach to medical care, medical malpractice cases and payouts have plunged.  Due in large part to a multi-billion dollar propaganda campaign by the Chamber of Commerce and major health insurers and health care chains, jury verdicts have been depressed and, more importantly, laws have been changed in almost all states.  The changes have been in the form of restrictions on the remedies available to victims of medical mistakes. These include damage caps, limits on what kinds of cases can be brought, procedural hurdles that make it impossible or near-impossible to bring many cases, and increasing the costs of cases to make them economically infeasible.

Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen documented some of this in their report published this month.  Despite preventable medical errors resulting in 80,000 to 400,000 deaths each year in the United States, fewer cases are brought and the payouts to the victims are lower…much lower.  The compensation to medical mistake victims is almost half of what it was in 2001. This is a fact despite increasing medical mistakes and studies that have documented the incredible number of deaths from medical errors.

These facts invite us to question the motives behind legal restrictions, caps on damages and “tort reform” as a way of bringing greater profits to the medical and insurance industry.  If medicine is to be the profession it once was and should be, it must police itself and allow for a free civil justice system to allow for compensation of its mistake victims.  There are no such restrictions in the business world; no statutes cap profits of big insurance or limit what damages are available when they choose to sue when they feel wronged.