The American Medical Association released a report surveying over 5,000 doctors. The result: An average of 95 medical malpractice claims were filed for every 100 physicians. Just under 50% were sued at some point in their careers. 20% of them were sued two or more times. And the specialty, of course, determined the career suit-rate:
Family practice: 80 claims for every 100 physicians
Internal medicine: 58 claims per 100 physicians
General surgery: 213 claims per 100 physicians
Surgical subspecialties: 170 claims per 100 physicians
Ob/Gyn: 215 claims per 100 physicians
Radiology: 116 claims per 100 physicians
ER Medicine: 109 claims per 100 physicians
Of those age 55 or older, 60% have been sued
Of those age 40-54, 45% have been sued
The longer you practice, the more likely you will be sued at least once in your career.
Our Response to the AMA:
So according to your study, practice long enough and you will likely get sued by somebody. Okay. But that fact also applies to plumbers and auto mechanics, Paramedics and nurses, Pollyannas and Pop Tarts.
Using the same data from the Physician Insurers Association of America that you did, underscores this little pickle: In fewer than 30% of the cases was any money paid out. Put another way, no money is paid out 70% of the time. The fact is, many may be sued, but your own study points out that thousands of patients who may deserve a timely settlement – don’t receive anything at all.
As my Indiana farmer dad used to say, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Are you ready, AMA?
Your argument is seriously suspect in the first place, coming as it does from a key player in the business of medicine, with a major stake in the volume you purport to be true.
In the second place, the mitigating circumstances for physician lawsuits are statistically off the chart, and you know it. They are profoundly important to the wellbeing of society as a whole; they are pathetically under-reported by healthcare. And a few of those factors are these:
1. 400+ citizens die while being medically treated, every day of the year. Your study, for some odd reason, did not mention this, did it?
2. The Nat’l Practitioner Data Bank holds files on 250,000 physicians, considered “Dangerous” or “Questionable.” From murder to child molestation, from rape to drug-running to insurance theft – almost exactly 50 doctors are found guilty of egregious misbehavior each week. No other profession in society generates as much crime.
The surprise ought not be that MDs get sued. The shocker is why this bunch of lab coat hooligans hasn’t already been sued into non-existence.
3. It is doctors – and no one else in society – who gleefully overprescribe the mind-numbing volume of drugs to the masses, at an ever-increasing rate. Does it concern you at all that fully 30% of all Girl Scouts at summer camp are on prescription drugs? On what planet ought that make sense?
4. The watchdog group Public Citizen reports that ‘Med Mal’ lawsuits are, in fact, few & far between. Fewer than 10% of all patients harmed by medical treatment ever bring suit at all. That means 9 out of every 10 incidents that could be litigated – aren’t. And your people feel picked on?
In those cases that are brought to trial, far more than half are won by the physician – for any number of reasons. Contrary to popular belief, juries tend to side with the medical care provider, unless the injury is practically undisputed. And anyone who thinks it’s a piece of cake to convince an attorney to take on a Med Mal case, well, they just aren’t paying attention.
5. Because of the ‘monster’ million-dollar suits that DO make the headlines, Americans typically suppose these victims are raking in tons of money on zillions of kooky cases. But factually, very, very few patient victories result in much at all.
We are by no means proud of the fact that we live in a country considered “lawsuit crazy” by the rest of the world. But we can say with some authority that American medical practitioners have brought this plague upon themselves, by simply not taking out the trash when it gets a little . . . stinky.
Your turn, AMA. Tell the world where we’re going wrong. 144,000 daily followers are anxious to hear why so many physicians get themselves sued.