Tort Reform Doesn’t Change Doctors’ Behaviors

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study on the effects of tort deform on emergency room department treatments. Some have warned that fear of malpractice suits would cause doctors to perform unnecessary care, especially in emergency rooms, which operate in an “information-poor, resource-rich environment that may lend itself to costly defensive practice.” NEJM studied states with legislation to change the malpractice standard.

The result [no surprise]: No change:

Legislation that substantially changed the malpractice standard for emergency physicians in three states had little effect on the intensity of practice, as measured by imaging rates, average charges, or hospital admission rates.

The only difference tort deform makes is reducing patient access to justice. This is simply unacceptable.


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