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Study: Restricting Physician Accountability Bad for Patients

Posted September 20, 2012
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Here’s a shocking conclusion from a new academic study into the impact of restricting medical liability: Patients harmed by medical negligence can’t access the legal system.

Okay, not so shocking. We’ve known that for years. Just ask patients who have been needlessly harmed by medical negligence. Or a family member – like Bill and Kelly Putnam – who have lost a loved one.

But, this latest bit of scholarly research into the matter confirms the anecdotal evidence that doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes escape accountability when they commit medical malpractice. The study also concludes that all patients are put at greater risk as a result.

The study’s author, Joanna Shepherd at Emory University School of Law, writes:

Thus, my survey provides evidence confirming that many legitimate victims of medical malpractice have no meaningful access to the civil justice system. Because these victims are unable to find legal representation, the injuries they suffer from medical negligence go uncompensated. The lack of victim compensation, in turn, reduces the deterrent effect of the medical malpractice system by blunting incentives for the medical community to improve care that the threat of a suit might otherwise provide.

As any follower of this issue knows, Texas is the poster child for the failure of these draconian policies. Our state has severely and arbitrarily restricted the ability of patients the seek accountability through our courts. What do we have to show for it?

Texas ranks dead last in the quality of health care, our health care costs are soaring at a rate faster than the national average, we rank near the bottom in the number of doctors who actually see patients, and we have the highest rate of people without health insurance.

If we are ever going to restore sanity to our accountability system, our leaders need to face facts. Our current policy of punishing patients is an abysmal failure. The evidence couldn’t be clearer.

Research & Reports
Research & Reports

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Court Watch
Court Watch

Court Watch, a program of the Foundation, documents the role and impact of the Texas civil court system on Texas families and Texas public policy. Read More »