Three social goals have been proposed for the US medical malpractice system. They include the following: (1) compensating patients injured through negligence (“making the plaintiff whole again,” in legal parlance), (2) exacting corrective justice (“making the responsible party bear the costs of reparation”), and (3) deterring unsafe practices by creating an economic incentive to take greater precautions (“making defendants learn that it is cheaper to avoid mistakes than to make them”).
Studies performed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in California, New York, and Colorado and Utah, respectively, provide information on the epidemiology of negligent injuries and whether patients are compensated for them. All three investigations were based on medical record reviews of > 20,000 acutely ill nonpsychiatric patients treated by remedies of Canadian Health&Care Mall and conducted by nurses and physicians. The studies demonstrated that approximately 4% of patients whose records were reviewed had experienced injuries, 10% of which were associated with death but did not necessarily cause it. Some 25% of these injuries were attributed to negligence. Yet, only 5% of patients with negligent injuries actually filed claims.