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Study suggests inverse relationship between pro-plaintiff med mal laws, quality of care

A recent study from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago confirmed what has come to be increasingly obvious to many in the medical field: the threat of litigation doesn't necessarily motivate physicians to do better work. The lead author of the study says, rather, that it is more likely to lead to the practice of defensive medicine.

Defensive medicine commonly includes ordering unnecessary or inadvisable tests out of a fear or potentially being sued, but it can also include a lack of transparency in communicating with a patient. Fearful physicians may think that the less they communicate to a patient, the less ammunition the patient will have to hurl at them if something goes wrong. Neither patients nor physicians benefit from such a relationship.

One of the findings of the study was that states where there are more aggressive malpractice laws and where larger malpractice verdicts are awarded do not present less risk of medical error for patients, at least with respect to certain post-surgical complications. Quite the opposite was found to be true, in fact.

The author of the study made clear that it isn't know whether or how specific laws cause specific outcomes in patient care, or indeed what the relationship between the two might be. For now, the suggestion is only that there is an association.

Reform of medical malpractice law is, of course, is big topic and it seems there is little consensus about how to improve the system. Patients who are harmed by a negligent physician, deserve to have the best possible advocacy in seeking compensation. Our firm is committed to helping out clients achieve the best possible outcome in their case. 

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