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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