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The Benefit of the Doubt

May 10, 2007

This from the Washington Post:

 For several years the Bush administration has pushed to reform the tort system, decrying an “epidemic” of frivolous malpractice cases and “runaway” jury verdicts that officials maintained were forcing doctors out of practice and leaving patients without needed medical care. Malpractice reform became a major topic in the 2004 presidential campaign; legislation is currently pending in Congress to transfer medical negligence cases to administrative health courts, Peters notes.

Yet in his 42-page analysis, he reports that studies examining closed claims in three states, as well as those involving major insurance companies, found that the current jury system favors defendant doctors.

“The studies reveal that juries treat physicians very favorably, perhaps unfairly so,” Peters writes, “and are more likely to defer to the judgment of a physician defendant than other physicians are.”

Doctors, he found, win about half of the cases that independent experts who review them believe should result in a plaintiff’s victory.

There are several factors to this acording to the article:

  •  Defendant’s superior financial resources;
  • Jurors willingness to give the doctor’s the benefit of the doubt;
  • The reluctance of doctors to label another doctor;
  • Cultural prohibition against seemingly profiting from an injury.

And interestingly the study shows that the doctors consistently do better in front of juries rather than specilized health courts.

 Source: That Malpractice ‘Epidemic’?

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