This article explores the causes of medical error, the medical profession's responses to errors, and how the legal system responds to medical error through litigation and legislation. Part II discusses the definition of "medical error," the frequency and pervasiveness of the problem, and the causes at the individual and system level. Part III considers how the culture of medicine has largely failed to address medical errors as a systems-based problem, and how the legal culture discourages admitting errors due to the threat of litigation. Focusing on systems, data must be collected and analyzed, and legal guidelines developed to encourage error reporting and develop standards, preferably at the state level. Part IV examines how both the legal and medical cultures might be reformed in order to reduce the rate of medical error, which would promote the ultimate goal of better quality healthcare. Legal barriers against error reporting need to be removed and liability theories reevaluated, with appropriate legislation to foster these changes. Part V discusses the role of economic incentives which promoted the current state of affairs, and how these forces might effectively be employed to shape medical, legal, and legislative responses to medical error. It is clear that if medical error rates are unacceptably high, new approaches by doctors, lawyers, patients, and legislators are needed.
Keith Meyers, Medical Errors: Causes, Cures, and Capitalism, 16 J.L. & Health 255 (2001-2002)