Q&A: Health Law Expert On The Current State Of Medical Malpractice


Publish Date:
April 17, 2017
  • Ellis, Brian
Endocrinology Advisor
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As US citizens continue to adjust to the changing political landscape, many in the medical field are wondering whether now may be the right time for medical malpractice reform.

A recent perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted reform as a real possibility, even as the current malpractice environment remains stable.

In an interview with Endocrinology Advisor, Michelle M. Mello, JD, PhD, of Stanford Law School and Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and one of the authors of the perspective, discussed the key issues surrounding medical liability, and why now is the right time to address malpractice reform in a meaningful fashion.

Endocrinology Advisor: Can you briefly describe the current state of medical liability in the United States?

Dr Mello: Providers and physicians pretty much universally agree that medical liability is burdensome, drives up healthcare costs, and makes their lives unpleasant. Empirically, there are variations across states in terms of how big the [pressure of the] liability environment is. However, providers tend not to see it that way; they see medical liability as a uniform and ongoing burden.

Endocrinology Advisor: In your opinion, does the current litigation process favor one group (ie, patient or practitioner) over the other?

Dr Mello: There are aspects of the process that are unpleasant and arguably unfair to both sides. I do not think the outcomes systematically favor one group over the other. However, when you talk about the broader group of people who have been hurt by malpractice and would like to bring litigation, the system very much disadvantages them, because most will never be able to find an attorney and bring a claim.

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