CJ&D Releases New Briefing Book: Medical Malpractice - By The Numbers

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

For Release:                                                                                                                                 
December 1, 2015        

Joanne Doroshow, Nicole Reustle
[email protected], [email protected]  




The Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School released today its newly updated briefing book, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: BY THE NUMBERS. The book is the fifth update since CJ&D first began compiling the latest statistics and research on issues related to medical malpractice (last updated in June 2015). It is a fully-sourced volume that has expanded to 128 pages with nearly 600 footnotes linking to original sources. Principal authors are Emily Gottlieb, CJ&D’s Deputy Director for Law and Policy, and Joanne Doroshow, CJ&D Executive Director.

Topics include: medical malpractice litigation, health care costs and “defensive medicine,” physician supply and access to health care, medical malpractice insurance, patient safety, and special problems for vets and military families. Among the many new research findings in this volume are:

  • Medical malpractice cases constitute only three percent of tort cases. Explains researchers from the National Center for State Courts, “Although medical malpractice and product liability cases often generate a great deal of attention and criticism, they comprise only five percent of tort caseloads (less than 1% of the total civil caseload).” (Pages 1-2). Of medical malpractice cases, very few - only 3 to 9 percent - are resolved by juries.  (Page 22).
  • While hundreds of thousands of patients die from medical errors each year, making this the third leading cause of death in America (not to mention causing huge numbers of serious injuries), only 8,551 medical malpractice payments were made on behalf of physicians in 2014, and only 5,288 disciplinary actions were taken “that reduced, restricted, suspended, revoked or denied physicians’ clinical privileges or membership in a health care entity.” (Pages 5, 8, 77).
  • Among doctors still “listed as eligible to bill Medicare” as of March 2013 were “147 who had received a final adverse action from a state medical board for crimes against persons, financial crimes, and other types of felonies.” (Page 8).
  • Diagnostic medical errors, which most people experience at least once in their life, are almost twice as likely to result in death compared to other medical errors. (Page 70).
  • In half of all surgical procedures, there is some sort of medication error or drug adverse event. (Page 70). Surgeons with the highest complication rates perform surgeries every day – a problem that many hospitals fail to track. (Page 8).
  • Robots used in minimally invasive surgeries “were involved in 144 patient deaths, 1,391 patient injuries and 8,061 device malfunctions.” (Page 73).


Said Doroshow, “Although hundreds of thousands of patients die each year due to medical errors, very few medical claims are paid to compensate injured patients.  It is not easy for someone who has lost a leg, their eyesight or a child to continue hearing from medical lobbies that they – the few patients who file claims – are the problem, as opposed to the medical negligence that caused these tragedies. We have an enormous patient safety problem in this nation, and the last thing we should do is try to solve it by increasing the obstacles sick and injured patients face in the already difficult process of bringing a case against a negligent health care institution.”


A copy of the full briefing book can be found here.

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