In our society, we rely on doctors and health care professionals to provide high-quality and potentially life-threatening procedures with consistent accuracy. But, like in any field, sometimes mistakes happen. However, in the healthcare industry, these mistakes could cost someone their life.
These situations fall under medical malpractice, defined as any event in which an injury or death results from medical treatment that was preventable and deviated for the medical standard. In order to qualify as medical malpractice, the healthcare professional must have shown negligence in their treatment. Injury or death caused my non-negligent and non-preventable causes are not qualified as medical malpractice.
If the situation does qualify as medical malpractice, the victim could receive monetary compensation for their physical and emotional suffering. Seems pretty straight forward, right? However, medical malpractice reform (called tort reform) is the crux of a decades-long debate that has raged since the 1970s.
Medical malpractice attorneys argue against tort reform, claiming that patients will lose their protection against negligent physicians. They say medical malpractice claims can keep healthcare providers in check by punishing any providers that have committed negligent acts. However, the cost of medical malpractice claims are high and can increase national healthcare spending by 2-10 percent each year. This averages out to $172 billion each year.
One the other hand, doctors are pushing for tort reform, saying that using that $172 billion could increase patient access to healthcare services. In addition to keeping healthcare costs in check, those advocating for tort reform also believe that without the looming threat of increased malpractice expenses, doctors would feel more comfortable in high-stakes situations, leading to better patient outcomes.
There are several proposals already in place for reforming medical malpractice law. In 2009, it was estimated that tort reform would save the federal government an annual $54 billion, which could then be recirculated into the healthcare industry. Here are a few of the proposals:
- Damage Caps. In many medical malpractice situations, the injured party could receive millions of dollars in damages. In 2003, the state of Texas did a damage cap trial run and limited damages to $250,000. This resulted in an influx of new physicians.
- No-fault Insurance. Similar to no-fault auto insurance, the injured party would be compensated for their suffering regardless of fault. This removes the need for litigation and can save medical facilities thousands of dollars.
- Malpractice Courts. Since many jurors do not have the medical experience needed to rule on malpractice cases, litigation could be won or lost purely on chance. There are currently proposals in place for a court exclusively run by healthcare experts who could accurately rule on whether or not an injury was caused by medical malpractice.
At the heart of this debate is the health of American patients. Both sides wish to improve healthcare procedures and provide more accessibility to those wronged by the system. For now, the proposals keep rolling out on both sides as they seek approval on a federal level.
If you have questions, a medical malpractice lawyer, like a medical malpractice attorney in Chicago, IL, is an excellent resource to consult with on the specifics of a claim.
Thank you to the experts at The Law Offices of Konrad Sherinian, LLC, for their insight into medical malpractice and the law.