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Tort Reform Causes Worse Health Outcomes for Boston Patients

In the state of Massachusetts, there is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, except in special circumstances or when there has been a substantial and permanent loss of a bodily function as a result of medical negligence.

Many states have similar caps in place limiting he ability of medical negligence victims to recover full compensation, even though a jury may find actual damages were far in excess of that limit. medical stethoscope.jpg

A Boston malpractice lawyer knows damage caps hurt patients. Recent reports indicate these rules limiting recovery in malpractice cases have a much wider negative impact than simply preventing victims from full recovery. Malpractice damage caps can actually make the entire healthcare system worse for patients.

Tort Reform is Harmful to Health Outcomes

The Huffington Post reported on several recent studies highlighting the tremendous problems associated with medical malpractice damage caps.

One Northwestern University study assessed the impact of malpractice damage caps on patient safety indicators (PSIs). PSIs are standard measurements developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in order to measure preventable adverse events. Some examples of PSIs include mistakes during and after surgery, infections acquired during hospitalization and birth errors.

The assessment of PSIs revealed when damage caps were instituted for malpractice cases, there is a widespread decline in patient safety. The decline not only applied to aspects of care that were likely to result in malpractice claims being made, but also to aspects of the healthcare system unlikely to result in lawsuits.

Two other studies, one from Rand and another from the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed damage caps do not bring the promised cost savings, as lobbyists and legislators so vigorously assert.

Advocates of tort reform who argue for malpractice damage limits frequently take the position that limiting patient recovery in malpractice cases will lower healthcare costs for everyone because doctors and hospitals will not have to purchase such costly malpractice insurance. The argument is the savings will be passed on to the consumer. Studies show this is not true.

In fact, one recent study actually went further and showed that caps on damages could increase healthcare costs rather than providing savings.

Tort reform advocates also make the argument that limiting malpractice claim damages will result in more doctors wanting to practice in the area. A recent study shows there is an increase in doctors practicing in a location after caps are put into place. However, the only increase revealed was more plastic surgeons moving to the area. This does not exactly improve health outcomes for the general public.

All of this research significantly undermines the arguments for tort reform and demonstrates how capping malpractice damages can hurt the healthcare system – and those it vows to serve.

If you are injured in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

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