"Learning from Litigation" - Study by UCLA Law Professor Suggests Medical Malpractice Litigation Aids in Creating Transparency and Reduction of Malpractice
A New York Times oped article today urges that medical malpractice litigation is serving a positive role in efforts to reduce the unfortunately vast amount of medical malpractice that occurs annually. Happily, the oped is backed up by a research paper and so it's not just opinion.
The author, Joanna C. Schwartz, is a UCLA law professor with no apparent ties to any of the usually advocating constituencies (plaintiff's lawyers, hospitals, doctors or insurers.) It appears instead she is interested in litigation and its impacts. Thus, Professor Schwartz' bio includes federal clerkships, pro bono work, overseeing clinical trial work by students and an article on the role of lawsuits in decision making by law enforcement officials: Myths and Mechanics of Deterrence: The Role of Lawsuits in Law Enforcement Decisionmaking, 57 UCLA Law Review 1023 (2010).
Professor Schwartz' oped, titled Learning from Litigation - includes the following observations:
"What accounts for these changes? Several factors appear to have overcome historical resistance to transparency, including widespread laws requiring disclosure to patients and confidentiality protections for internal discussions of error. Hospitals have also found that disclosing errors to patients and offering early settlements reduces the costs and frequency of litigation.
Judging by the abstract and the oped (I've not read the full article), the research findings appear to jibe with prior research on medical malpractice myths - as opposed to war stories. The research shows that medical malpractice suits are best avoided by acknowledging errors, apologizing, and paying compensation in appropriate cases.