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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Tort Reform: A Recent Study Proves It’s Time to Withdraw

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For years, the insurance industry has successfully pushed for “tort reform” in more than half the states, based on the promise that restricting victims’ ability to bring medical malpractice suits would improve healthcare and reduce its cost. The facts, however, show that this simply is not true. The latest blockbuster revelation looked at the impact of tort reform restrictions implemented in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study by a team of doctors and public health experts who found that tort reform measures passed in the three states did nothing to reduce the number of expensive tests and procedures emergency room doctors prescribed. The study examined 3.8 million emergency department visits at 1166 hospitals between 1996 and 2012. What they found was that doctors in these tort-reform states – who were virtually immune to malpractice suits – prescribed just as many MRIs and CAT scans as doctors in the control states proving that the risk of getting sued did not change doctor behavior. The conclusion was that despite eliminating the fear of being sued, there was little effect on the practice of medicine or the cost of the services in emergency rooms.

This latest study follows numerous others that deflated tort reform myths that:

  • Making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts.
  • Imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs.
  • Malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.

Another myth to dispel is that medical malpractice cases are about money. While true that monetary damages is the only means for our justice system to compensate the injured, what is adequate compensation for losing a limb or a child? I have never met anyone who wouldn’t give up every dime to take away the pain, to have their spouse or child back, to be able to walk again.

All tort reform has done is fail to compensate negligently injured patients and slow progress in patient safety initiatives. We have been complacent in the face of injustice for too long.  We must protect our rights from being trampled on by the powerful health care industry and pro-insurance lobbies. It is time for legislators to recognize that they were hoodwinked and begin to look for real solutions to make patients safer. Improving patient safety and preventing errors must be at the core of the medical liability reform discussion. Until patient safety is the first and only priority of health care providers, a lawsuit is the only vehicle to achieve punishment for wrongdoing and prevention from further misconduct.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.