My wife and I recently traveled to Europe with a group of alumni from a local college. The trip (to Istanbul, Turkey) was fantastic!
Many nights the group shared dinner and conversation at days’ end…often talking about the amazing history and culture of our host country. One night, however, the discussion turned to medical malpractice and several people suggested that too many medical malpractice cases were filed in America. One of those speaking stated that his community had excellent doctors and that lawsuits were driving doctors out of the profession.
I held my tongue…as there is little factual information to support these criticisms of medical malpractice litigation. After dinner that night, one of the men in attendance came up to me (the only medmal plaintiff’s lawyer in the group) and said he used to work for a multi-national reinsurance company which provided reinsurance to medical malpractice insurance carriers in the Uinited States. He shared his 30 years of experience with me by making the following statement, “if the damned doctors would police their own we would not have so many incompetent medical professionals harming their patients.”
The retired insurance executive’s comments brought to mind reports from Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog organization. Public Citizen’s conclusion, “States vary widely in the number of serious disciplinary actions they take against doctors, and even the best state medical boards may not be doing enough to protect patients, according to an annual ranking of the boards…”
The disparity among the states is significant: Lowest-ranked Minnesota’s medical board took only 1.07 actions per 1,000 doctors, while highest-ranked Alaska’s took 7.89 actions per 1,000 doctors. If all states disciplined doctors at the average rate for the top five states—Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, Ohio, and Arizona—an accompanying statement notes, there would have been 2,368 more actions each year.
My Take: Medical malpractice suits are necessary to identify (and hold accountable) doctors who perform poorly and injure their patients as a result.