New Study Shows Tort Reform Leads to More Patient Harm
Christopher Nace, Esq.
One of the main goals of the civil justice system and tort law is to deter negligent behavior, but a new study by Northwestern University School of Law and School of Economics has found that the true effect of tort “reform” is quite the opposite.
The study analyzed Texas, a state where there has been “large reform shock” to the system that also has complete patient-level data on in-hospital outcomes for analysis. In 2003, the state passed strict limits on medical malpractice liability, from caps on damages to bars on who you can sue. Obviously, this led to a drop in medical malpractice claims and payouts per claim, but it also caused some other changes that tort reform supporters don’t want you to
Since the “Texas miracle” was enacted, there has been a gradual rise in preventable adverse patient events–in other words, preventable injuries to patients (this study did not include death). Northwestern researchers found that since reform, hospitals have relaxed their standards and reinforcement of patient safety–not just in Texas, but in four other states that adopted caps on damages.
The problem here is one of deterrence. Often times, laws and policies are enacted to deter dangerous and negligent behavior. This is especially important in the healthcare system. Liability is a strong incentive to provide quality care–when there is no method to hold negligent actors accountable, accidents rise. Minimizing medical malpractice liability results in virtually no incentive to provide quality care. Injuries rise and patients are left without recourse.
This study states the honest truth: “Med mal reform is good for health care providers – but the case for overall social benefit is hard to make.” Tort reform lets healthcare providers off the hook and insurance companies line their pockets, while families are left footing the bill for serious, preventable medical complications.
Don’t believe the hype about tort reform. Politicians and those that benefit from tort reform want you to believe that it helps you too. Let them know that overwhelming reports prove the opposite. Be sure to vote for policies and propositions that protect your access to justice and health care. Learn more about important policy this election by visiting nationallawjournal.com.
See the study in depth, by downloading it here.