Do Poor People Sue Doctors More Frequently? Confronting Unconscious Bias and the Role of Cultural Competency

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, May 2012

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-16

8 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012 Last revised: 14 Apr 2012

Frank McClellan

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Augustus A. White III

Harvard Medical School

Ramon L. Jimenez

Monterey Peninsula Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Institute

Sherin M. Fahmy

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Low-income patients are misperceived by some physicians as a more litigious group than other patients. This article attempts to address this misperception through a holistic approach. First, it presents the conclusions of a number of studies that reveal that economically-disadvantaged patient groups are, in fact, less likely to file medical malpractice lawsuits. The article then discusses how the results of these studies are substantiated by how lawyers are often discouraged from taking on low-income clients. Understanding how the contingency fee system operates helps explain why the poor are less likely to sue as lawyers weigh the risks and costs associated with gaining courtroom access. Despite knowledge of these realities, the article then purposes this misperception continues to be held among some possibly due to the presence of unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias describes how decision-making and rational are influenced by stereotypes without one being aware of it. Lastly, recommendations to confronting unconscious bias and reducing the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits are presented in order to address this misperception in total.

Keywords: medical malpractice, unconscious bias, cultural competency, low-income patients, contingency fee, physician misperception, orthopaedics

JEL Classification: K19, K32, K39, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

McClellan, Frank and White, Augustus A. and Jimenez, Ramon L. and Fahmy, Sherin M., Do Poor People Sue Doctors More Frequently? Confronting Unconscious Bias and the Role of Cultural Competency (2012). Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, May 2012; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2016350

Frank McClellan (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Augustus A. White III

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Landmark East 2N07
401 Park Drive
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-998-8802 (Phone)
617-998-8808 (Fax)

Ramon L. Jimenez

Monterey Peninsula Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Institute ( email )

10 Harris Court
Monterey, CA 93940-7823
United States

Sherin M. Fahmy

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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