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How medical malpractice lawsuits lead to better care for everyone

Have you ever tripped over something and then taken it upon yourself to move that object so that others don’t do the same? Have you ever lost money in a vending machine and then taped a sign on it so that future customers could spend their cash elsewhere? If so, you intuitively understand an important principle of human nature.

When we are injured or otherwise wronged, we may want to seek justice and compensation for ourselves, but we also want to make sure that others are spared from what we had to suffer. In fact, this is often a major reason why victims of medical negligence choose to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits.

To be sure, compensation is also an important aspect. A patient who is injured as the result of medical negligence has both the need and the right to pursue compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.

But if medical malpractice plaintiffs were only in it to “score a big payday,” few would have the patience to endure a lengthy, costly and emotionally taxing legal process. Many are seeking the additional goal of protecting other patients.

Patient advocacy in the form of medical malpractice lawsuits is actually a good thing. Lawsuits incentivize healthcare providers to implement reforms that improve patient safety and standards of care. There are numerous, real-life examples showing how health care providers can lower costs and improve outcomes by focusing on error detection and reduction. But many medical providers would not invest in such reforms if they didn’t have the incentive to reduce medical malpractice liability.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of medical negligence, you likely need and want to pursue compensation. In doing so, you may also be protecting future patients by holding negligent doctors and hospitals responsible for their mistakes.

Source: Forbes, "Malpractice Lawsuits Aren't Just About Money," Steve Cohen, June 18, 2014

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