pennsylvania medical malpractice filings are down but why

Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuit filings dropped in 2010, following a six-year trend of declining filings. While some might interpret this as good news regarding patient safety, the real reasons being touted for the decline in filings are measures that have been implemented that essentially blame plaintiffs for the “problem” of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Rules put in place in 2002 were designed to discourage “frivolous” medical malpractice cases. But frivolous suits have always been against the rules, so what kinds of cases were being brought before that aren’t being brought now? Most medical malpractice attorneys would say that meritorious cases with minor problems are getting passed over entirely.

To the medical malpractice insurance industry, fewer filings is a good situation, regardless of the reasons for it. But is there really a benefit to the public from discouraging injured patients from pursuing compensation?

There would be reason to applaud a drop in malpractice lawsuits if that drop could be tied to more effective safety measures or to an increased willingness on the part of health care providers and their insurers to take responsibility, and provide compensation, for injuries caused by medical malpractice.

Instead, a culture of denying responsibility and fighting all claims tooth and nail means that injured patients have no recourse but to seek full compensation through the legal system.

Bills before the Pennsylvania legislature to prevent “lawsuit abuse” are missing the point. If we want fewer medical malpractice filings, we should concentrate on eliminating medical malpractice, not limiting the opportunities for injured patients to seek redress.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania continue to decline” 5/22/2011

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