Malpractice Lawsuits: Who Needs Them?

Who needs medical malpractice lawsuits? Anyone who is or could be a patient. This includes, ah, all of us.

Most doctors are not good doctors. Most doctors are great doctors. They are in the world’s most prestigious profession for a reason: they are smart and competent. But, like any profession, there are a minority of doctors who are awful. Malpractice lawsuits would be at least less important if doctors properly policed themselves.

But they don’t. State medical boards fail to discipline 55 percent of our doctors who are sanctioned by hospitals, according to a just released Public Citizen report. Think about that: their own hospital, where they presumably have contacts and relationships, saw fit to discipline them. But not the state’s medical board.

The idea that doctors cannot police themselves is not a newsflash. More than a third of docs don’t think they’re responsible for reporting doctors who are not fit to practice medicine and only 69 percent of the docs who knew about an impaired or incompetent colleague did report them.

Can lawyers discipline themselves? No. We can’t either. This is why we have legal malpractice lawsuits.