Doctors And Patients Both Lose When Risk Of Malpractice Suits Rises

A study recently released by Brigham Young University found that doctors spend less time on the job if they practice in a state where it’s easier for them to be sued for malpractice.

According to economists Eric Helland and Marc Showalter, doctors cut back their workload by nearly two hours per week when the expected risk of being sued rises just 10 percent. The study, published in the new issue of the Journal of Law and Economics, notes that the decline in hours adds up to the equivalent of one of every 35 physicians retiring without a replacement.

This study is important not only because it provides more evidence that states without medical liability reform laws are discouraging doctors from practicing there, but because it shows how lack of these laws hurts patients, too. Fewer doctors on the job means patients have a harder time finding the medical care they need when they need it.

Unfortunately, the people of Illinois can now expect to see many doctors there begin cutting back on the time they spend in the office. The Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down medical liability reform that had been enacted to keep and attract doctors there. See Chicago Tribune editorial here.

Personal injury lawyers in Georgia and Missouri have also taken to the courts in an effort to repeal laws that limit lawsuits against doctors. If judges overturn those laws, patients there can expect to wait longer to see their doctor, too – if they can even find a doctor!

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