Defensive medicine to prevent malpractice lawsuits is costly to the American healthcare delivery system
The American medical liability and medical malpractice lawsuit system remains a very vexing problem for physicians and patients. The fear of a lawsuit not only places a wedge between physicians and their patients, but it forces defensive medicine to prevent lawsuits, which adds substantially to the cost of healthcare delivery. It is estimated that between 1% and 4% of all healthcare dollars spent in the United States, is attributed to malpractice lawsuit defense and awards as well as defensive medicine. It puts physicians at emotional, reputational, and financial risk. It drains resources out an already financially strapped national healthcare system.
An American Medical Association 2008 survey found that 65% of physicians over the age of 55 have had at least once lawsuit in their career. This number is significantly higher for surgical sub specialties.
Both the sides of the political aisle acknowledge that this is a problem that needs attention. Physicians and patients, particularly those patients who live in areas of the country where physician access is limited due to the negative lawsuit environment are pressing state and national politicians to enact tort reform legislation. As Pres. Obama pointed out last year, such legislation could come about when the Affordable Care Act is refined in the next 1 to 2 years.
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