Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality?

Michael Frakes

Duke Law School

Anupam B. Jena

Harvard University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

January 4, 2014

Journal of Public Economics, Forthcoming

We assess the potential for medical liability forces to deter medical errors and improve health care treatment quality, identifying liability’s influence by drawing on variations in the manner by which states formulate the negligence standard facing physicians. Using hospital discharge records from the National Hospital Discharge Survey and clinically-validated quality metrics inspired by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, we find evidence suggesting that treatment quality may improve upon reforms that expect physicians to adhere to higher quality clinical standards. We do not find evidence, however, suggesting that treatment quality may deteriorate following reforms to liability standards that arguably condone the delivery of lower quality care. Similarly, we do not find evidence of deterioration in health care quality following remedy-focused liability reforms such as caps on non-economic damages awards.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 89

Keywords: malpractice; health care quality; deterrence; defensive medicine

JEL Classification: I18, K13

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Date posted: January 5, 2014 ; Last revised: September 10, 2016

Suggested Citation

Frakes, Michael and Jena, Anupam B., Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality? (January 4, 2014). Journal of Public Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2374599 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2374599

Contact Information

Michael Frakes (Contact Author)
Duke Law School ( email )
210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Anupam B. Jena
Harvard University ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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