When I talk to strangers about what I do for a living or lecture to students, or just discuss the topic of Ohio Medical Malpractice at a social gathering, I discover that many, if not most, people have deeply held negative beliefs about the judicial system and the concept of suing a doctor or a hospital. These beliefs fuel the negative attitude toward lawyers that are willing to stand up and fight for the injured and make the job of obtaining justice a never ending battle that favors doctors and punishes the injured victims. The myths and the negative beliefs are simply untrue and cause more harm and damage to our society and deflect from the real issues, namely improving safety and preventing costly medical errors. In the course of my travels over the past 33+ years, there are certain common themes that seem to come up over and over again. They include, but are not limited to, the following myths and suing for medical malpractice:
- There is a litigation crisis in which people are too quick to sue.
- The number of lawsuits is skyrocketing and increases every year.
- Most people who sue are out to get something for nothing.
- Jurors are easily swayed by slick lawyers.
All of these and other myths are not true. Not only are they not true, but they result in a system that promotes excusing and protecting doctors when they are sued from being held responsible and they lead to a healthcare system where profits are put ahead of patient safety. A recent article written by the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School reached the following conclusions:
- Preventable medical errors are widespread but few injured patients file lawsuits.
- Medical negligence lawsuits are rare and declining in number.
- Juries are able to handle medical malpractice cases.
- Juries are not anti-physician; in fact, the opposite is true.
- Verdicts are far smaller than commonly believed.
- Medical malpractice awards and payments reflect the severity of the injury.
- Far from being “broken,” experts say that the current medical malpractice system works well.
- Litigation actually improves patient safety.
- The best way to reduce malpractice litigation is to reduce the amount of malpractice.