What Happens When Malpractice Liability Is Suspended?

Laws and social paradigms changed sporadically throughout the COVID pandemic. Some of these changes were minor. Others were major — but went largely unnoticed by those who were unaffected. For example, malpractice liability was suspended in many states. Advocates say this suspension allows doctors more freedom and patients a better standard of care. Opponents say a suspension is unwarranted because it takes away a patient’s right to compensation if that aforementioned care isn’t actually up to the usual standard.

The reality of this shift is probably less dire than these advocates or opponents describe, but the imbalance is clear for all to see. Those who are affected by medical malpractice deserve justice. Doctors who fail to provide a clear standard of care deserve to be punished. Neither of these will happen when medical care is accompanied by a legal suspension of malpractice liability.

A 1999 Institute of Medicine report provided significant evidence that around 100,000 Americans are killed due to malpractice every year. Those who penned the report wanted that number reduced by half by 2004. Now it’s 2022, and laws have guaranteed that the number of patients who succumb to medical malpractice will only rise.

State laws also have the tendency to contradict one another, or allow doctors and healthcare providers the opportunity to escape them through loopholes.

For example, NYS Education Law 6527 forces health care providers to investigate medical malpractice concerns through peer review — but there’s a single important exception to the law, which states, “The prohibition relating to discovery of testimony shall not apply to the statements made by any person in attendance at such a meeting who is party to an action.”

What this means is simple. The peer reviews are required when medical malpractice surfaces, but no one under suit is allowed to say anything. 

Another concern that most of us are missing as time marches on is that boomers are aging. What happens when most are trapped in healthcare facilities with no recourse when medical malpractice or abuse occur?