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Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Healthcare Quality? (WP-15-04)

Michael Frakes and Anupam Jena

The researchers estimate the relationship between medical liability forces and healthcare quality using clinically validated measures of treatment quality rather than the coarse measures previously relied upon by scholars. Drawing upon remedy-focused tort reforms—e.g., damage caps—they estimate that current liability rules only modestly improve quality. They contend that this limited independent impact may reflect the structural nature of the present system of rules, which hold physicians to standards determined according to industry customs. They find evidence suggesting, however, that physician practices might respond more significantly to substantive reforms, which alter the standards against which physicians are judged. 

Michael Frakes, Associate Professor of Law and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Anupam Jena, Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Massachusetts General Hospital; and Faculty Research Fellow, NBER

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