If health reformers want to emulate Canada and Europe, can we copy their malpractice systems too?

Most health reformers and progressive policy experts want our health system to be more like Canada, a single payer system, or Europe, which include hybrid public-private systems.

What most fail the mention is that in both these instances, malpractice systems (via DB’s Medical Rants) from these countries compensate patients more fairly, and do not expose the physician to the lengthy and traumatizing litigation process that they do in America.

Consider this piece in Medical Economics, looking at malpractice systems from abroad:

Stunned by huge awards handed out by juries? In Canada, judges try the vast majority of malpractice cases.

Outraged by the contingency fees of plaintiffs’ attorneys that gobble up one-third or more of court-awarded damages? Germany bans them, while the United Kingdom limits a victorious plaintiff’s attorney to twice his customary fee.

Skeptical of dueling expert witnesses? German judges appoint their own neutral experts.

Sick and tired of litigation, period? In New Zealand, malpractice cases bypass the courthouse. They’re adjudicated through a no-fault system run by the government.

Each of these options are better than our current system, which pays 54 cents on the dollar towards administrative fees.

I do agree that malpractice caps are a non-starter, and unlikely to gain traction.  But some of these other ideas, especially loser pays, should be considered.

So, here’s a piece of advice to health reformers. I think you will garner much more physician support and sympathy for a European or Canadian-style health care system if you also advocate importing their malpractice system as well.

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