The Case Against National Medical Malpractice Reform: New at Reason

"Nobody wants medical tort reform more than me," writes Dr. Jeffrey Singer.

As a surgeon in private practice for over 30 years, I feel the sting of exorbitant malpractice insurance premiums. I hear tales in the hospital doctors' lounge of frivolous lawsuits, of suits brought by ungrateful and misinformed patients, of doctors torn between feelings of compassion and fear when they interact with many of their patients. In most states, the cost of bringing a lawsuit is negligible, while the defense costs, including those to the psyche, are enormous.

However, I wince every time I hear politicians and pundits claim that tort reform is an essential ingredient to "free-market health care reform"—that it is a "major driver" of rising health care costs. I know that if they waved a magic wand and completely eliminated the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits tomorrow, nothing much would change in the way in which my colleagues and I practice medicine. Ordering expensive, redundant, and possibly unneeded tests is now baked into the cake.

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