Juries are the heart of our civil justice system. And contrary to what you hear from insurance companies and those affiliated with them, juries usually reach the right result. Jurors have an uncanny ability to see the truth and get to the heart of a case. Lawyers who think they can fool a group of 12 jurors need to re-think their strategies.
So it has always amazed me that insurance companies would manage to convince a significant portion of the public that juries can’t be trusted to reach the right result in medical malpractice cases. We hear claims of "frivolous lawsuits" often by the medical industry and insurance companies. It’s as if the medical industry thinks it is exempt from justice and that they are above the law, immune from the scrutiny of juries and our courts.
An excellent and balanced look at these reform proposals has come from an unlikely source – a physician. In a very well documented Salon article, I’m a Doctor. So Sue Me. No, Really, written by Dr. Rahul K. Parikh examines the claims by the insurance industry and other medical groups that medical malpractice suits are the cause of high medical costs. In Parikh’s article, he reveals the truth behind the inflated claims of some lobbying groups and insurance companies that medical malpractice suits cause high insurance premiums. He cites numerous government studies in reaching his conclusion that high insurance premiums are not caused by medical malpractice lawsuits.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nationally, between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the frequency of malpractice suits per capita remained stable at about 15 claims per 100 physicians per year. Another report (PDF), from the National Center for State Courts, actually shows that the number of cases between 1996 and 2006 dropped 8 percent.
He also makes the point that patient safety seems to get lost in all this discussion of closing the doors of the courthouse to people injured by medical malpractice. Instead of pushing baseless reforms, he concludes that we should focus on how to make our nation’s medical system safer for all patients.
A wonderful article.
Image: Parikh’s website