Medical malpractice litigation helps improve patient care

by John McKiggan

I read with interest this article in the New York times written by Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

One of the (false) arguments trotted out by oppontents of medical malpractice litigation is that it prevents disclosure because doctors and hospitals take a “circle the wagons” approach to litigation that inhibits sharing of information that could improve patient safety.

However, a study done by Ms. Schwartz showed just the opposite:

My study also shows that malpractice suits are playing an unexpected role in patient safety efforts, as a source of valuable information about medical error. Over 95 percent of the hospitals in my study integrate information from lawsuits into patient safety efforts.

Access to Justice Improves Patient Safety

I have said it before but I think it is worth repeating. The ability of patients to seek accountability through the courts is a fundamental part of our civil justice system. Medical malpractice litigation plays an important part in improving patient safety by pointing out medical errors and how they can be corrected/prevented.

Ms. Schwartz notes:

But participants in my study said that lawsuits can reveal previously unknown incidents of medical errors – particularly diagnostic and treatment errors with delayed manifestations that other reporting systems are not designed to collect.

Want more information?

Want to learn more about how Canadian victims of medical malpractice are helping to improve our health care system? Get a copy of After the Error.

Although I contributed to the book I don’t receive any financial benefit from sales. I just think that the book is an important step towards greater transparency in our health care system. The authors, Susan McIver and Robin Wyndham are passionate advocates for patient safety.

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