When Liability Isn’t a Dirty Word

I want to share an interesting op-ed piece by law school professor Tom Baker that appeared in the New York Times on July 12, 2009. Baker also wrote the book The Medical Malpractice Myth. In the article Baker argues that while our health care system does need reform, limiting medical liability is not the answer. He believes that medical liability forces health care providers to be more responsible in their treatment of patients.

Critics often argue that medical malpractice lawsuits cause health care costs to rise. Baker counters that health care costs aren’t going up because of large lawsuit claims: “Preventable medical injuries, not patient compensation, are what ring up extra costs for additional treatment.”

Harvard School of Public Health conducted a survey and found that medical malpractice awards correspond with the merits of a case. Also, the majority of patients who suffer from medical malpractice never even file lawsuits.

Baker thinks medical liability has actually helped our health care system by forcing the system to implement more safety checks and research. Liability keeps hospitals and health care practitioners on their toes.

Baker writes, “The research shows, overwhelmingly, that the real problem is too much malpractice, not too many malpractice lawsuits.”