Complications Rise in States With Stronger Malpractice Laws

Connecticut medical patients may be interested in a recent study that investigated the effectiveness of medical malpractice laws. In theory, making it easier to hold doctors accountable for malpractice should result in better care. However, the study found that the threat of litigation does not necessarily lower the rate of surgical complications.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, examined the care provided to 890,000 Medicare members nationwide in 2010. When looking at many factors like the odds of death or complications, state malpractice insurance premiums and claims made, researchers found that no malpractice law was consistently associated with improved outcomes after operations. Some states awarded more damages when malpractice occurred and had more aggressive malpractice laws. However, these factors did not lower patient risk for complications after surgery.

General surgeons had an average malpractice premium of $47,000 during the study period. In some cases, patients were at greater risk in states where physicians are more open to malpractice claims. In these states, patients were 22 percent more likely to develop a bloodstream infection, 18 percent more likely to have gastrointestinal bleeding and 15 percent more likely to suffer acute kidney failure. However, this does not prove that malpractice laws led to these outcomes. It is possible that these patient outcomes played a role in implementing stronger malpractice laws.

While malpractice laws might not lead to better patient care, physicians do have a responsibility to help their patients even without the threat of litigation. Malpractice laws exist so that patients can receive compensation when medical caregivers breach their responsibility to patients. One may wish to consult a lawyer when filing a medical malpractice claim.