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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 10, 2012

Both Symptom and Disease: Relating Medical Malpractice to Health-Care Costs

William M. Sage


Tort reformers blame the high cost of American health care on defensive responses to rampant medical malpractice litigation. Defenders of the tort system counter that holding health care providers liable for negligence improves safety and ensures compensation for injury. The relationship between medical malpractice and health care expenditures is more complex than either of these positions reflects. The existing medical malpractice system increases medical spending mainly because it has evolved in tandem with other inflationary features of the health care system and may make those features even more difficult to change. In other words, medical malpractice is both a symptom of a costly health care system and a costly disease in its own right.

Corresponding author: William M. Sage, Vice Provost for Health Affairs, James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence, The University of Texas, 727 E. Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78705

Published Online: 2012-09-10

©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

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