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Medical Malpractice Repeat Offenders Are Major Issue

Jason Reese

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine founds that a very small proportion of doctors are responsible for a disproportionately large number of paid medical malpractice claims. The Stanford research team found that a mere 1% of doctors are involved in nearly one-third of all paid claims. Of these claims, one-third resulted from cases in which there were patient deaths, and fifty-four percent resulted from cases of serious injury to patients.

David Studdert, professor of medicine and law at Stanford, found the biggest predictor for medical malpractice is whether or not the doctor has already paid a malpractice claim in the past. The direct relationship between the number of paid medical malpractice claims and likelihood of future medical malpractice is a new finding. Doctors with two paid malpractice claims are twice as likely to have malpractice claims in the future, doctors with four paid claims are four times as likely to have medical malpractice suits paid or settled.

Physicians who were more likely to need to pay medical malpractice claims had a few things in common. Of the one percent of doctors who pay out nearly one-third of medical malpractice claims, 82% are male. They tend to be older, and half of them come from four practice areas: internal medicine, general practice/family medicines, obstetrics and gynecology, and general surgery.

The authors of the study say there are relatively few instances where health care systems and medical insurers take the care to follow up and intervene in the case of repeat medical malpractice offenders. They believe their predictors could be used to prevent many cases of medical malpractice, and therefore, a great deal of patient and family pain and suffering. In most cases, however, it can be difficult for a patient or prospective patient to discern any previous medical malpractice activity. Even in California, a state with relatively strong patient rights laws, doctors’ medical malpractice records become publicly searchable only in some types of medical malpractice settlements and only if a doctor has had three or four settlements in a five-year period. Most patients may assume a doctor’s active practice means he or she has not paid out any medical malpractice claims, but the facts show clearly that many of these doctors continue to practice despite repeated malpractice payouts.

Even the impact of a successful major surgery or medical procedure can have negative repercussions, financial, physical, and emotional, but the effects of a problematic medical procedure can be devastating. Though nothing can make loss of life or injury less painful, it may be possible to provide peace of mind in knowing your financial obligations and medical/psychological needs can be met. Our Indianapolis-based medical malpractice attorneys are experienced, knowledgeable, and will provide you the support, and services you need. Call Wagner Reese now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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