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Does medical malpractice need some TLC?

The average physician in the U.S. has a malpractice claim filed against him or her about every seven years. Considering about 10 percent of a physician's career will be spent dealing with medical malpractice suits, some believe reform is called for. People in New York and throughout the U.S. should be aware that some of the proposed reforms regarding medical malpractice suits include tort reforms and a cap on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.

Currently, some physicians are subjecting patients to excessive and possibly unnecessary medical tests, which in turn result in the physician being sued and their clinical confidence reduced. Such testing may help to support the doctor's confidence, while at the same time patients are undergoing and paying for potentially unnecessary tests.

Most malpractice claims are filed nearly two years after an incident occurred and often take up to 43 months to resolve. Therefore the patient who filed the malpractice suit may be waiting over five years for their case to be settled. Even dismissed cases take 18 months to two years, while settled cases often take two to three years. Those cases that go to court can take almost four years to adjudicate.

With the Affordable Care Act beginning to affect the medical field, another aspect of medical malpractice suits is the taking up of physicians' time; the time taken up is time taken away from tending to patients. Considering 30 million additional people will be entering the mainstream health care system in the U.S., doctors will be stretched thin even more.

One reform being called for is more transparency. Studies show patients' preference when a medical mistake occurs is for the physician to acknowledge the error and apologize for it.

Although less than five percent of medical errors result in lawsuits being filed, it is important that victims of medical malpractice get the support and compensation they deserve. With many physicians more concerned about lawsuits that treating patients, the patient is ultimately the one who is at risk of being the victim of a medical mistake.

Source: Forbes, "Medical Malpractice: Broken Beyond Repair?" Robert Glatter, Feb. 6, 2013

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