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Small Group of NY Doctors to Blame for Most Malpractice Claims

ALBANY, NY -- March 28, 2003 -- A small percent of New York doctors are responsible for a large share of malpractice payouts, according to a report by Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. The group suggests that the medical community focus on weeding out bad doctors to improve patient safety and lower malpractice insurance rates.

Information in the federal government's National Practitioner Data Bank shows that just 7 percent of New York's doctors are responsible for 68 percent of malpractice payouts, Public Citizen reported. "Contrary to assertions by the medical and insurance lobbies that 'skyrocketing liability exposure' threatens patient safety, the real threat is posed by the few dangerous doctors who commit most of the medical malpractice in New York," commented Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch (Press Release, March 10, 2003).

The report also found that:

  • Between 2,967 and 6,608 people die annually in New York state hospitals due to preventable errors. The costs of these errors to New Yorkers is between $1.1 and $1.9 billion a year, far more than the annual cost of malpractice premiums paid by New York's doctors ($873 million).
  • New York doctors' malpractice insurance premiums have remained flat for a decade, betraying claims of a liability "crisis."
  • Only 10 percent of New York doctors who made three or more malpractice payouts were disciplined, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Further, just 28 percent of New York doctors who made 10 or more malpractice payouts have been disciplined.
  • By disciplining doctors with two or more malpractice payouts and preventing them from becoming repeat offenders" with three or more payouts, the state board could eliminate 45 percent of the total number of medical malpractice payouts.

These New York figures are in line with national reports, which show that about 5% of doctors throughout the United States account for 54% of malpractice payouts (See Doctors, Insurers Wrong About Medical Malpractice). Of the 35,000 doctors who have had two or more malpractice payouts since 1990, only 7.6% have been disciplined.

Public Citizen suggests that besides enforcing effective doctor discipline, states should require hospitals to institute good risk prevention programs. These include measures to curb errors such as using computers to better track prescriptions and orders, addressing the nursing shortage, and reducing the long hours of medical residents.

Brayton Purcell is concerned that consumers receive appropriate health care. If you or a family member has been unfairly treated by your heath insurer or in the handling of other types of insurance claims, we are available to discuss your rights. Please feel free to contact us.

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