Lobbyists representing trial lawyers across the country argue that medical malpractice payments are a drop in the bucket in comparison to other costs and that trying medical malpractice cases saves patients' lives by keeping dangerous and negligent doctors out of hospitals and operating rooms. They also come carrying frightening statistics: the Institute of Medicine reports that almost 100,000 deaths each year in the United States are the result of medical malpractice.
On the other hand, some argue that medical malpractice caps on pain and suffering payments could save the government as much as $4.3 billion in the next ten years. However, everyone seems to agree that doctors and hospitals need to improve the quality of their care - the disagreement comes in finding the best way to do so.
Obama has entered the conversation by saying that medical liability issues would be a prime place to look to save money in the next few years.
One of the greatest issues seems to be "defensive medicine," in which doctors go to extra, expensive lengths to prevent being sued for medical malpractice by ordering large numbers of diagnostic tests or prescribing unneeded medicine.
A change that seems likely may involve alternative dispute resolution - a program that may encourage patients to negotiate compensation outside of the courts. Another idea that has been floated involves a medical-specific court in which judges have greater medical knowledge. Those on both sides of the medical malpractice debate seem to think that alternate solutions to medical malpractice lawsuits would be beneficial.
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