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Study Exposes The Myth of Tort Reform

The growing cost of healthcare is one of the most pressing issues in California and the entire country. Many politicians and doctors blame the increase in medical costs on medical malpractice lawsuits and unnecessary "defense medicine" practices used to ward off malpractice claims.

A recent student by the Center for Progressive Reform notes that the link between defense medicine and malpractice lawsuits is exaggerated. Medical costs are not driven primarily by malpractice lawsuits, but rather overpriced pharmaceuticals, an aging population, a rise in chronic diseases, and a proliferation of expensive, state-of-the-art medical technology which does not necessarily improve patient outcomes.

Empirical evidence shows that medical malpractice lawsuits do not have a significant impact on medical costs and that tort reform wouldn't significantly drive down the spiraling cost of health care. Even if aggressive tort reform measures were enacted, the possible 10 percent decrease of malpractice premiums would only result in a tenth of one percent reduction of all health care costs.

"The evidence reveals that "defensive medicine" is largely a myth, proffered by interests intent on limiting citizen access to the courts for deserving cases, leaving severely injured patients with no other recourse for obtaining the corrective justice they deserve," study authors concluded. "These changes would limit the deterrent effect of civil litigation and diminish the regulatory backstop that the civil justice system provides to the professional licensing system, leading to more medical errors."

Source: Center for Progressive Reform, "The Truth About Torts," Sidney Shapiro and Thomas McGarity. (PDF)

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