Malpractice liability plays only a limited and inconsistent role in doing what it should: giving doctors an incentive to practice safely.
Medical leaders and patient groups have made some progress reducing one type of error: infections contracted in hospitals. Organizations like the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and medical schools like Johns Hopkins University have engaged and educated doctors and nurses about preventing these infections. Consumers Union and other patient groups have won enactment of legislation in 30 states to require hospitals to report how often their patients contract a preventable infection. Congress has provided funds for additional infection reporting in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result of all of this effort, infection rates are declining. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found declines of as much as 58 percent for various hospital infections over the last several years.
However, there remain a vast number of safety problems in desperate need of improvement.