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Is Patient Safety the Malpractice Solution?

Is Patient Safety the Malpractice Solution? Venn Diagram

The concept of "patient safety" has recently emerged as the latest solution to the medical malpractice problem. It is based on the idea that improved patient safety will reduce the number of medical errors, which will reduce the number of lawsuits. At first glance, the logic is plausible. But, it does not withstand scientific scrutiny.

As the Venn diagram depicts, medical errors and medical malpractice are largely unrelated phenomena. Most lawsuits are not the result of errors and most errors do not result in lawsuits. Accordingly, even if we could eliminate every medical error, 80% of lawsuits would remain.

While improved patient safety is a noble goal, we should pursue it with the knowledge that it will have minimal impact on the number of medical malpractice lawsuits.

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2. Studdert DM, Negligent care and malpractice claiming behavior in Utah and Colorado. Med Care. 2000;38:250-260.