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Study finds malpractice lawsuits have minimal impact

Many people in New Mexico and across the nation bemoan the rising cost of healthcare, but few people can pinpoint the reason for its high costs. Some place blame on the cost of medical malpractice; when hospitals cover the legal costs of doctor errors, the thinking goes, the cost is passed on to patients. Despite its logic, medical malpractice lawsuits may not be solely responsible for driving up the nation’s medical costs.

New research from Johns Hopkins University may shed some light on the reasons for the high cost of healthcare. The study found that the cost of unnecessary tests and procedures is largely responsible for the nation’s surging medical costs; these unneeded medical services are estimated to cost the healthcare system more than $60 billion a year. 

Although some consumers are astounded when they learn of medical malpractice cases that cost hospitals more than $1 million, these cases are rare and account for less than 1 percent of all medical expenditures. Unfortunately, these medical malpractice cases can tie up hospitals’ resources; the average case lasts more than four years before it is resolved.

Regardless of the overall cost of medical malpractice cases, it is important for victims of doctor errors or hospital negligence to report any wrongdoing. Because patients place their lives in the hands of medical professionals, they must be held accountable for medical mistakes. Reporting errors can help hospitals and doctors avoid future errors. People who have suffered as a result of a medical error may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. 

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Medical malpractice study finds high payouts not a huge drain,” Terry Baynes, May 17, 2013

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