By Terry A. Rondberg
Being the target of a malpractice lawsuit doesn’t necessarily indicate incompetence or unprofessional behavior for any individual practitioner. Too many lawsuits are filed because of ignorance, lack of understanding, inaccurate expectations, unrelated personality conflicts, arguments over billing, and — sadly — greed.
Still, in general, the number of malpractice lawsuits filed against a profession or professional subsection can be roughly equated to the overall safety of that discipline. That’s why a riskier specialty like obstetrics or neurosurgery are associated with higher rates of malpractice lawsuits whereas lower risk approaches like chiropractic and acupuncture enjoy a far lower rate of legal actions.
It’s significant, therefore, to find that by late in their career, nearly two-thirds (61%) of all medical doctors have been sued, according to a study conducted by the American Medical Association.
The study analyzed data from 5,825 physicians who responded to the AMA’s Physician Practice Information survey, which examined costs of medical practice and associated factors from 2007 to 2008. The study revealed that, for the physicians surveyed, there were 95 medical liability claims filed for every 100 physicians — almost one per doctor. Highlights in the report include the following realities:
… Nearly 61% of physicians age 55 and over have been sued.
… Before they reach the age of 40, more than 50% of obstetricians/gynecologists have already been sued.
… 90% of general surgeons age 55 and over have been sued.
The study notes that 65% of the claims are dropped or dismissed, but doesn’t specify what percentage were settled out of court in the plaintiff’s favor. Average defense costs per claim range from a low of more than $22,000 among claims that are dropped or dismissed to a high of over $100,000 for cases that go to trial, the reported noted.
Although exact figures are not available for the chiropractic profession, it’s obviously far, far lower than those seen among even the “safest” of medical specialties. That’s reflected in the malpractice insurance rates as well as in the courts.
The information on the rate of lawsuits against MDs is good to keep on hand next time a patient or interested member of the public wonders about the safety of chiropractic!
SOURCE: Source: AMA Policy Research Perspectives, “Medical Liability Claim Frequency: A 2007-2008 Snapshot of Physicians,” August 2010 (www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/363/prp-201001-claim-freq.pdf)
About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Dr. Terry A. Rondberg is founder of the World Chiropractic Alliance, as well as serving as its CEO. He is an staunch advocate for drug-free chiropractic care, not only for the spine for for the whole body. He traveled the world to speak on the issue of CAM in general — and chiropractice in particular — and the shortcomings of our current healthcare system.