Honesty and Apologies Reduce Malpractice Lawsuits

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					Malpractice1009   9/25/09    4:39 PM    Page 1

       40 Renal & Urology News                 OCTOBER 2009

                                                                     MALPRACTICE NEWS

           BY ANN W. LATNER, JD                                                                                                                     available at http://www.citizen.org
           Medical Malpractice
           TV Ads Skyrocket                                                                                                                         Honesty and Apologies Reduce
                                                                                                                                                    Malpractice Lawsuits
           Television advertising by lawyers
           soliciting plaintiffs in medical mal-                                                                                                    Honesty really is the best policy,
           practice cases has increased nearly                                                                                                      especially when it comes to tak-
           1400% since 2004, a study found.                                                                                                         ing responsibility and avoiding
             The study, commissioned by the                                                                                                         lawsuits. That is what the Uni-
           U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s                                                                                                               versity of Michigan Health Sys-
           Institute for Legal Reform, exam-                                                                                                        tem (UMHS) discovered after it
           ined the prevalence of these ads                                                                                                         launched an innovative program in
           from 2004 to 2008. The study                                                                                                             2002. Before then, the health sys-
           showed that in 2004, there were                                                                                                          tem, like many others, had a “deny
           10,150 medical malpractice ads                                                                                                           and defend” strategy based on
           compared with more than 156,000                                                                                                          numerous fears that fueled the
           in 2008. Spending by lawyers and                                                                                                         reluctance of physicians to speak
           law firms on this type of advertis-                                                                                                      openly with patients about things
           ing has also exploded, from $3.8                                                                                                         that may have gone wrong, even in
           million to nearly $62 million during                                                                                                     the absence of negligence. Some
           this time period.                                                                                                                        fears included the natural aversion

             Lisa A. Rickard, president of the                                                                                                      to confront angry people, but for
           Institute for Legal Reform, said the                                                                                                     the most part the anxiety was over
           finding highlights the growing role                                                                                                      lawsuits, and concerns that discus-
           of medical malpractice cases in the        Launched in 2002 by the University of Michigan Health System, a program asking                sions might compromise court-
                                                      physicians to take responsibility for mistakes has decreased malpractice suits.
           overall litigation landscape. “Law-                                                                                                      room defenses or result in can-
           suits are ultimately a business driven                                                                                                   celled malpractice insurance or
           by the plaintiffs’ bar, and when you      conducted the study of malpractice        n Implement safeguards and qual-                     raised rates.
           see the marketing of medical mal-         ads for the Institute for Legal           ity control measures to reduce med-                    Th
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