For years, advocates of tort reform have claimed that medical malpractice lawsuits are a primary cause for the increase in health care costs. Their argument is that doctors fearing a possible medical malpractice lawsuit practice medicine defensively, which in turn results in the doctor ordering unnecessary tests in order to protect themselves against a lawsuit. A recent study from the RAND Corporation disproved this argument.
The study examined the health care costs in three states (Georgia, Texas and South Carolina) both before and after the enactment of new tort reform laws. It further compared these costs with the health care costs from neighboring states that did not enact any of the the new tort reform laws. The study found that the new laws made no difference in curtailing the rising costs of health care. The findings were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The remarks of the study's chief author, Dr. Daniel Waxman, are insightful: "It's easy to blame something that's out of our control, and the legal system is a convenient scapegoat." Dr. Waxman is a medical doctor with board certifications in cardiology and emergency medicine. At Shevlin Smith, we echo Dr. Waxman's remarks. The legal system should never be blamed for negligent care that needlessly injures patients. Victims of medical negligence have a constitutional right to pursue their legal rights without restrictions imposed by agenda-driven tort reform advocates.