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October 13, 1993

Caring for the Poor and Professional LiabilityIs There a Need for Tort Reform?

Author Affiliations

From the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (Dr Glasson) and Office of General Counsel (Dr Orentlicher), American Medical Association, Chicago, Ill.

JAMA. 1993;270(14):1740-1741. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510140100037

Over the years, our understanding of medical malpractice has been plagued by a number of myths, many of which have been exposed by a remarkable series of reports from two groups.1-3 As a result of these reports, and contrary to popular belief, we know that adverse events due to negligent practice rarely result in a lawsuit (only 2% of such events lead to malpractice claims),1 juries are not systematically biased against physicians (malpractice defendants win more than two thirds of cases, a better record than defendants in other kinds of personal injury cases),2,4 and juries decide cases on the basis of the physician's quality of care rather than the patient's severity of injury.2

See also p 1697.

In this issue, Burstin et al3 expose another persistent myth about medical malpractice. It is commonly believed that poor patients are more likely than wealthier patients to bring