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Malpractice Caps Do Not Work: NEJM

Do capping an innocent person’s damages work? That is an argument made by many people in the Pennsylvania Legislature, especially many representatives and senators from Central Pennsylvania. A new peer reviewed study would cast doubt on there beliefs that capping damages are effective. In fact, the study concludes that they are dangerous and ineffective.

On August 2, 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a peer reviewed article highly critical of caps on damage awards in medical malpractice cases. This journal is without argument the most respected Doctor’s Journal in the country. It concluded that caps are dangerous to patient safety, are ineffective in reducing healthcare costs, and have no relationship to “defensive medicine”.

In other words doctors, scholars and healthcare experts are now in agreement with what victims and trial lawyers have said all along: Caps on damages are not a solution to healthcare costs, they add to the problem. Instead of caps on damages, the healthcare system is suffering under the weight of a much larger problem: Excessive insurance company profits, a lack of preventive medicine, and outrageously high cost and inhumane end of life care.

Here is an excerpt from the NEJM study:

“Strategies to control costs associated with medical malpractice and defensive medicine must be responsible and targeted. These strategies must not impose arbitrary caps on damages for patients who are injured as a result of malpractice. According to the Congressional Budget Office, arbitrary caps on damages would reduce national healthcare spending by only .5%. But while imposing caps would have a barely measurable effect on costs, they (caps on damages) may adversely affect patient health outcomes.”

The article went on to strongly support a safe harbor system whereby doctors would be presumed not to have committed malpractice when they refuse to order certain overused and expensive tests. This is called wise choice. It would not immunize these doctors but it would shift the burden onto the plaintiff to show why the standard of care required the ordering of that expensive test in their case.

Finally the medical community sees caps as bad for healthcare delivery and bad for patients. Wise choice is a well thought out solution that controls costs without shifting the burden onto those negligently harmed. I for one support a safe harbor for physicians who refuse to order unnecessary and expensive tests.

Healthcare costs need to come down on the wings of common sense, not on the backs of the injured.

If you have an injury or a loved one is injured or killed in an incident that may have been caused by a negligent doctor, hospital and/or nursing home, feel free to contact a medical malpractice lawyer from our law firm who can answer any questions you may have about your rights after you or a loved one are the victim of injury or death caused by the negligence of another person or company.

Schmidt Kramer – Injury lawyers in Harrisburg, PA. Ph: (717) 888-8888.