van Velthoven and van Wijcka, ‘Medical liability: Do doctors care?’

To study the preventive effects of medical malpractice law one needs variation in malpractice pressure, across time or space. Since the 1970’s US states have enacted a variety of reforms in their tort systems. This variation has provided highly useful data to study preventive effects. The empirical evidence shows that medical malpractice risk affects the behavior of health care providers. It has a negative impact on the supply of services, and it does seem to encourage the ordering of extra diagnostic tests. But the empirical evidence also shows that defensive medicine does not have a clear-cut effect on health. If the additional tests and procedures have any value, it is only a marginal one. It has further been found that changes in the supply of services do not affect health adversely. This suggests that the physicians that are driven out of business have a below average quality of performance. At the margin, medical liability law may have some social benefits after all. These benefits must be weighed against the costs. Tentative calculations suggest that the benefits of even a modest reduction in injury rates suffice to offset reasonable estimates of overhead and defensive medicine costs.

Ben CJ van Velthoven and Peter W van Wijcka, MEDICAL LIABILITY: DO DOCTORS CARE?. Recht der Werkelijkheid 2012 (33) 2 pp28-47.

First posted 2013-02-05 08:35:26

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