Study: medical malpractice laws don't reduce health care costs

It has long been claimed in Joplin and across the nation that our healthcare
costs are soaring because doctors are forced to order expensive tests
that patients don’t need. Doctors claim that they order the unneeded
tests – often referred to as “defensive medicine” –
to guard against
medical malpractice claims. That’s what physicians have long said, anyway.

Reuters reports that a new study shows the “defensive medicine”
claim is a false one. The reality is that in states that passed laws making
it nearly impossible for an injured patient to successfully sue a negligent
doctor, “the cost of care did not go down in hospital emergency
departments.”

The chief author of the study said “if your goal is cost savings…then
medical malpractice reform is a blind alley.” In other words, the “reforms” don’t save patients
money. The reforms undoubtedly benefit doctors and hospitals, however.
They are shielded by the malpractice “reforms,” even when
they are negligent and even when their negligence causes severe injury
to a patient.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at South
Carolina, Texas and Georgia; states where laws were changed to protect
negligent doctors. According to Reuters, only emergency room doctors in
those states can “be sued for gross negligence, in which the doctor
knows that a treatment will likely cause serious injury, yet does it anyway.”

In those three states, researchers “found no difference in nearly
every measure” in the numbers of MRI and CT scans and other “defensive
medicine” tests.

The study found that doctors ordered virtually the same numbers and types
of tests before and after the medical malpractice laws were enacted. In
those states, the conventional wisdom that medical malpractice lawsuits
were forcing doctors on the defensive is simply untrue.

Fortunately, negligent Missouri doctors can be held accountable for the
damage they do. A conversation with a medical malpractice attorney can
help you understand your legal options.

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