Despite many claims from the healthcare industry over the past year, a new study has found that tort reform does in fact increase the number preventable adverse safety events in hospitals.
The study looked at data from five states that enacted non-economic damages caps in medical malpractice cases. Those states were Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and South Carolina, all of which enacted caps in the early-mid 2000s, and none of which were greater than $750,000 (with the exception of extreme cases in Florida). Though the caps in Illinois and Georgia were invalidated in 2010, the study’s data collection ended in 2010, so the data was not affected. The study looked exclusively at data for inpatient settings.
The study found that in every state, the number of preventable adverse patient safety events rose after the state adopted a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The average rise was between 10-15 percent. The rates of death as a result of these events was not statistically significant but did rise slightly. The researchers pointed out that the fact that the increase in death rates was not statistically significant "may explain why other studies of the impact of medical malpractice tort reforms that use death as the principal outcome conclude that tort reforms have no significant effect on the quality of healthcare in the United States," according to Medicalmalpracticelawyers.com.