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Study on doctors who commit medical malpractice is published

Medical negligence is a recurring problem in New York and around the country. It may be committed by doctors, hospitals or other medical personnel. A recent study published in a prestigious medical journal concludes that a very small fraction of doctors are involved in a large percentage of medical malpractice settlements nationally. The study looked at data available from the U.S. National Practitioner Data Bank.

What's more, over a 10-year period viewed by the study, only 6 percent of all practicing doctors were involved in a paid malpractice settlement. One important point stressed by the study was that the greater the number of settlements paid by a doctor, the greater the chance that they would pay out another in the future. This allows for a general conclusion that a small number of physicians nationwide are responsible for most claims of medical negligence.

The study was conducted by a law and medicine professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and it was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study hopes to lead to ways to initiate preventive measures and interventions with respect to doctors who incurred multiple payment of malpractice claims. The study is also a wake-up call to hospitals and liability insurance carriers, who may be able to modify their procedures accordingly based on identification of a minority of high-risk doctors.

When a doctor commits medical malpractice in New York or elsewhere, it doesn't mean that he or she is incompetent to practice. There are many innocent but unfortunate mistakes that even  highly skilled physicians may face in daily practice. The settlement of a claim over a lifetime of practice should create no value judgment about the doctor's competence. The purpose of the study, however, is to alert the medical community to the existence of problem cases where multiple occurrences are a red flag that intervention of some sort may be necessary.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Many Doctors Who Face Malpractice Suits Are Serial Offenders", Anna Almendrala, Jan. 29, 2016

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