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The campaign to slip widespread tort reforms into America’s health care bill is gaining momentum it doesn’t deserve because people are blithely accepting its exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies as fact.

To combat this, the American Association for Justice has just released a report called “Five Myths About Medical Negligence,” which exposes the tort reformers’ media campaign as the propaganda it really is.

Myth #1: There are too many “frivolous” malpractice lawsuits.

Fact: The Institute of Medicine has found that 98,000 people die and hundreds of thousands more are injured in hospitals each year due to preventable medical errors. These errors cost the health care system an $29 billion a year they wouldn’t have to spend if better prevention strategies were in place.

Despite these overwhelming numbers, only one in eight people injured by medical negligence ever files a malpractice suit. Moreover, the number of malpractice suits has actually decreased by eight percent over the past ten years, and amounts to less than one percent of the whole civil docket. Of the suits that do get filed, a 2006 Harvard study found that on average, 97 percent are meritorious, with a full 80 percent involving death or serious injury. “[P]ortraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation,” the authors stated, “are overblown."

The idea that frivolous malpractice lawsuits are unduly clogging the legal system and wasting American taxpayers’ time and money is simply bogus. On the other hand, medical negligence is very real, and any responsible health care reform bill must find a way to meaningfully address issues of patient safety.

Stay tuned as the week goes on for more myths about tort reform.

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