Public Citizen recently released an analysis which concluded that there is no medical malpractice lawsuit crisis. Rather, there is a problem with a small group of doctors who make serious mistakes. The report, entitled “The Great Medical Malpractice Hoax” dispels myths of dwindling docs and insurmountable insurance premiums that proponents of “tort reform” use to bolster their arguments. According to Public Citizen, the real problems are a lack of attention to patient safety, the high incidence of preventable medical error, and a lack of accountability for the small set of doctors who account for a majority of the medical malpractice payments.
In preparation for the report, Public Citizen reviewed data available from 1990 – 2005 from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank. The analysis showed that the total number of medical malpractice payments declined 15.4 percent between 1991 and 2005.
The report also sets recommendations to combat medication errors. Among the recommendations, Public Citizen states that hospitals should invest in computer physician order entry systems which would avoid mistakes associated with illegible handwriting. Additionally, hospitals should limit doctors and residents workweeks to reduce error from being the docs being tired. Furthermore, state medical boards should be given greater funding and staffing and be forced to provide stricter oversight to prevent dangerous docs from practicing.