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Over career, most doctors in US will face lawsuit

The Boston Globe, August 18, 2011

Most doctors in America will be sued at some point during their career, a Harvard study released in the New England Journal of Medicine has found. Physicians who perform high-risk procedures, including neurosurgeons and obstetricians, face a near certainty of being named in a malpractice case before they reach age 65. Yet a relatively small number of claims, about 22%, result in payments to patients or their families. Authors of the study, which examined 15 years of data, said it highlights the need for changes in malpractice law so that doctors and patients can resolve disputes before they resort to litigation, which often costs both parties money and heartache. "Doctors get sued far more frequently than anyone would have thought, and in some specialties, it's extremely high," said Amitabh Chandra, an economist and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and an author of the study. "In some sense, the payment is the least important part, because you can insure against it, but you can't insure against the hassle cost."