Research Shows Tort Reform Laws to be Harmful

The topic of medical negligence has made front page news in recent weeks, specifically in states where patient safety has eroded due to strict immunity or “tort reform laws.” In a recent Huffington Post blog titled: “ How Tort ‘Reform’ Ruins Health Care for Everyone” author Joanne Doroshow outlines new research that shows how the impact of “tort reform” has undermined the medical system and is doing more harm to injured patients, their families and damaging health care in general.

The three studies published by Social Science Research Network focused on “caps on damages” in nearly half the states in the nation (including CA and TX) that enacted caps during the last “hard” insurance market (2002 to 2005). The researchers then compared these data to other “control” states. Using Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs), the researchers considered the “standard measures of often preventable adverse events, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).” PSIs include such things as operative and post-operative errors, infections, birth-related errors and cases at risk, like hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Here is a brief summary of the study results:

1) The first study shows evidence that patient safety generally declines after caps are enacted.According to Doroshow, this is the first study ever that evaluates the health consequences of any kind of “tort reform,” Read the full study here.

2) The second study finds that “caps on damages” increase health care costs stating that “no evidence that adoption of damage caps or other changes in med mal risk will reduce healthcare spending.” Their research also determined “there is no evidence that limiting med mal lawsuits will bend the healthcare cost curve, except perhaps in the wrong direction.” Get the report data here.

3) The third study showed “no evidence that cap adoption predicts an increase in total patient care physicians, in specialties that face high med mal risk (except plastic surgeons), or in rural physicians.” Click on the following link to view the report data.

Perhaps these studies help shift the debate to more evidence based thinking on “tort reform” legislation and unfair damage caps. As Oregon and Washington medical malpractice lawyers, we see first-hand the damage caused by health care providers. We remain committed to fighting to the rights of those injured so they receive the settlement they deserve.

Social Science Research Network study: The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform

Social Science Research Network study: Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine, Revisited

Does Medical Malpractice Reform Increase Physician Supply? Evidence from the Third Reform Wave