The American medical liability system: An alliance between legal and medical professionals can promote patient safety and be cost effective

Steven E. Pegalis


Objective: The aim of this paper is to evaluate a hypothesis premised on the idea that if medical leaders in the United States support an unfettered access for patients injured by medical error to the American civil justice system, that approach would improve patient safety and be cost effective.

Method: An analysis of the relevant legal and medical literature.

Results: Medical liability in the American civil justice system derived from traditional tort law is based on accountability. Reforms applied to medical liability cases urged by healthcare providers limit and in some cases eliminate legal rights of patients injured by healthcare error which rights exist for all others in non-medical cases. Yet medical liability cases have promoted a culture of safety. Information learned from medical liability cases has been used to make care safer with a reduced incidence of adverse outcomes and lower costs. A just culture of safety can limit provider emotional stress. Using the external pressures to reduce the incidence of law suits and promoting ethical mandates to be safer and disclose the truth can promote provider satisfaction.

Conclusions: An alliance between legal and medical professionals on the common ground of respect for the due process legal rights of patients in the American system of justice and the need for accountability can make care safer and can be cost effective.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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