Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Medical malpractice in perspective. I--The American experience.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 13 June 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:1529
  1. L Quam,
  2. R Dingwall,
  3. P Fenn


    Concern over the possibility of an American style medical malpractice "crisis" in the United Kingdom has recently been voiced by members of both medical and legal professions. The validity of such fears is examined by reviewing the conditions that have given rise to the current American difficulties. It is argued that the rise in malpractice insurance premiums and associated restrictions in availability should be seen against the background of underwriting problems specific to medical liability in conjunction with a general decline in reinsurance cover. The evidence in relation to the clinical and resource implications of malpractice is analysed. In particular, arguments that increased litigation has influenced the practice of "defensive" medicine and the choice of specialty are critically examined. Medical malpractice claims and insurance are only part of a professional environment which is undergoing dramatic social and economic changes, many of which seem more plausible candidates to be treated as important influences on the nature and organisation of health care in the United States.