Medical Malpractice and Physician Discipline: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

38 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2018 Last revised: 17 Jul 2020

Date Written: July 4, 2020


We study the overlap between the medical malpractice (“med mal”) and medical disciplinary systems, using the records of Illinois physicians who held an active license at any point from 1990-2012. We quantify the specialty-specific risk of having a paid med mal claim or a disciplinary action; how many physicians have both; and the extent to which physicians with 2+ paid claims or 2+ disciplinary actions account for a disproportionate share of the activity of both systems. We also examine which factors are associated with paid claims and disciplinary actions, and whether physicians with multiple paid claims or disciplinary actions are concentrated at particular hospitals. Physicians with 2+ paid claims account for 2.6% of all licensed physicians, 54% of paid claims and 52% of payouts. Physicians with 2+ disciplinary actions account for 0.5% of physicians and 38% of all disciplinary actions. The risk of paid claims and disciplinary actions varies greatly by specialty. Physicians who attended non-U.S. medical schools are more likely to have paid claims but (except for high-disciplinary risk specialties) are not more likely to be subject to disciplinary action. Physicians with prior paid claims are more likely to be the target of disciplinary action – but not vice versa. A small number of Illinois hospitals are staffed by physicians with unusually high numbers of paid med mal claims, disciplinary actions, or both.

Keywords: medical malpractice, licensing, disciplinary action, discipline

JEL Classification: K23, K32, K40

Suggested Citation

Hyman, David A. and Rahmati, Mohammad Hossein and Black, Bernard S., Medical Malpractice and Physician Discipline: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (July 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

David A. Hyman (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Mohammad Hossein Rahmati

Sharif University of Technology ( email )

Graduate School of Business and Economics
Sharif University of Technology
+98-21-6604-9195 (Phone)


Bernard S. Black

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-2784 (Phone)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-5049 (Phone)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)


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