Legal Debate: Assumptions on medical malpractice called into question | Science News

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Legal Debate: Assumptions on medical malpractice called into question

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7:11pm, May 9, 2006

The notion that many medical-malpractice lawsuits are frivolous and intended to generate undeserved riches for plaintiffs and their lawyers isn't borne out in a new study.

A review of almost 1,500 randomly selected malpractice lawsuits in the United States finds that instances of healthy people successfully suing a doctor for malpractice are exceedingly rare and are far outnumbered by cases in which a patient injured by medical error goes uncompensated, health-policy researchers report in the May 11 New England Journal of Medicine.

The Boston researchers who conducted the study acknowledge that doctors pay high malpractice-insurance premiums and that litigation is expensive for all parties. But they find little to suggest that proposed federal laws limiting jury awards to patients would alleviate those costs.

The majority of payments from insurance companies went to people who had been harmed by medical errors, not to people with baseless claims, the data

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