As lawyers who handle medical malpractice cases in Michigan, we are often questioned about how medical malpractice lawsuits affect the field and practice of medicine. There has been much propaganda, almost entirely false, over the last decade by special interest groups who try to eliminate a victim's right to sue a hospital or physician for medical mistakes and errors. These false myths include the contention that doctors will leave the state if no reforms are placed and that doctors are going bankrupt because they cannot afford malpractice insurance. Of course, there are no statistics to justify either contention, except for the fact that insurance rates are rising because insurance companies keep raising their rates without paying more in claims.
In Michigan, we have artificial caps on the amount of damages that a victim of medical malpractice can receive in a lawsuit. There are specific caps on Michigan medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits as well. Since those caps have gone into effect, there has been no trend either way of more doctors coming into Michigan or fewer doctors leaving the state. Also, with those caps and other barriers to compensation in place, there has not been a reduction in the malpractice insurance rates charged to doctors. If there are few claims and limits on the amount of claims, one would expect a reduction in premiums. Not so at all, but insurance company profits have risen steadily over that time.
With the health care reform debate ongoing, the special interest groups are attempting to place medical malpractice restrictions into the health care reform bill for frivolous reasons again. Over 98,000 Americans die to medical malpractice every year. One would think that eliminating medical mistakes would save the country more money and more lives than eliminating the rights of malpractice victims to seek justice in our courts. Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin recently addressed President Obama and his fellow U.S. Senators on this issue during the health reform debate. His video testimony on medical malpractice reform was both truthful and compelling. Hopefully, Americans will see through the special interest groups and realize that medical malpractice reform does not belong in our national health care bill.