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Victims of medical malpractice should be compensated more quickly, researchers say

By Burg Simpson
January 21, 2013
2 min read

Sometimes a medical malpractice claim can take a long time to resolve, causing stress on the patient, physicians involved and the legal system, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the RAND Corporation said in a recent report.

The study was part of a larger effort by the researchers to understand how medical malpractice works and if there are ways to improve the system, both for patients and doctors. A typical malpractice claim isn’t filed until almost two years after an incident, a Harvard Gazette article stated, and may not be resolved until more than 40 months after the incident. Dismissed cases can last 18 months to two years, settlements can take two to three years, and jury trials can take even longer.

“That’s a very long time for a patient or a physician to have to wait for resolution,” said Anupam Jena, assistant professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical school and general internist at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

The researchers said when medical malpractice does occur, compensation to the patient affected should be “fair and swift.”

Thomson Reuters article stated the authors of the report suggest other medical facilities follow the lead of the University of Michigan Health System, which adopted a program in which hospital staff proactively look for medical errors, disclose them to patients and offer compensation when at fault. With the help of the program, the university decreased the amount of time it took to resolve malpractice claims.

“The goal of a well-functioning malpractice system should be to reward patients who suffer malpractice both fairly and quickly rather than have them wait five years to get a settlement,” Jena said, according to the article.

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