Home Articles Medical Malpractice Laws Should Focus On Reform Rather Than Punishment – Opinion

Medical Malpractice Laws Should Focus On Reform Rather Than Punishment – Opinion


Punishments, sanctions, and restraining orders. These are often mistaken to be the end result as well as the purpose of litigation. Most times, this is true, especially in criminal cases. However, this should not cast a shadow over the true purpose of the law. 

It’s true that the law exists in order to punish unlawful behavior. However, it exists for a higher purpose – reform. The law values human life and it tries to defend the sanctity of life when possible. 

This purpose extends to all aspects of the law, but the subject of this discussion will look into the way the law functions in medical malpractice law. The truth is that it is indeed effective at punishing negligent doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel. But it fails to reform erring medical professionals, and in turn, it fails its primary purpose – to quell negligence in the medical field.

Behavioral Change

The greatest determinant of reform lies in a significant change in behavior. A punishment can only be deemed effective if it was able to spark a change in the person being punished, such that the punishable act will no longer be repeated. This is not the case with doctors who have had malpractice claims filed against them. 

Even when they are made to pay a hefty fine, there isn’t a compelling enough reason for them to change their negligent behavior with future patients. While one can argue that previous offenders will surely have difficulty finding employment, they have the choice to simply set up their own clinic and to continue to practice medicine.

In fact, those doctors are no less likely to relocate than non-offenders. They are, however, more likely to switch to less serious practice environments. Some are even able to start businesses in the same way that lawyers do.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters because the failure to reform erring medical professionals endangers the general public. Doctors who have had medical malpractice claims filed against them in the past will still be able to practice, and if the system fails to reform the negligent behavior, the problem remains, and the doctor will simply practice elsewhere.

This problem becomes even more serious with doctors who breach protocol to a degree that causes permanent damage, as is the case with induced labor injuries. The doctor can simply choose to practice elsewhere or set up his or her own clinic without the general public knowing that this doctor does not treat patients in a way that adheres to standards set by the medical community.

The hard truth in all this is that hospitals are more likely to fire an erring doctor rather than reform that doctor, or at least incentivize good behavior.

How do we resolve this issue?

The solution lies in being able to address the glaring insufficiency of current measures. The fact that the system puts too much emphasis on taking punitive action (by imposing fines) does nothing to discourage unwanted behavior or to encourage good behavior.

An erring doctor is not deterred by taking away his money, but rather, by taking away (or suspending) his ability to earn money in the medical field.

While this may sound a bit too harsh, you have to consider the fact that medical personnel are involved in the business of life and death. We all know that the law tends to value human life above all else. The sheer responsibility that medical professionals carry also means that they are subject to a more stringent set of standards.

Author Bio: Catherine Park is a lifestyle and travel blogger, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Apart from this, she loves to write on legal and business related blogs.