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Stricter medical malpractice laws may not reduce malpractice

Each year, many patients are subjected to improper or insufficient care by their negligent physicians. As a result of this negligence, these patients suffer from worsened conditions and even new injuries and illnesses. Some experts believe that the number of medical malpractice cases can be reduced by implementing stricter laws that make it easier for patients to file suit against their careless surgeons.

However, a recent study by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found that threats of possible litigation did not make doctors perform any better. The study analyzed medical malpractice data from 2010 and focused on the number of claims for every 100 physicians in each state, medical complications amongst fee-for-service Medicare patients and other-related information.

The study revealed that larger malpractice awards and stricter malpractice laws did not make complications after surgery any less likely. In fact, in states where doctors were more likely to face malpractice claims, patients were more likely to develop sepsis, pneumonia, acute kidney failure and gastrointestinal bleeding. However, the results do not indicate whether the laws led to these outcomes or whether the outcomes led to the laws.

Causing Louisiana doctors to fear litigation does not appear to help patients receive better care, but many also believe that limiting liability for doctors by capping damages does not help patients either. By lowering the damages' cap, patients are less likely to sue their doctors and doctors' insurance premiums decrease. The best solution may be to hold physicians everywhere to a national standard and make sure that all patients are treated with the care they deserve.

Source: Reuters, "Stronger malpractice laws may not prevent surgical complications," Lisa Rapaport, Jan. 27, 2017

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