More than 60% of doctors over the age of 55 have been sued at least once, according to a new survey by the American Medical Association (AMA).
Although most of those claims are dropped or dismissed, the new survey from the AMA shows that most physicians will be sued for malpractice at some point in their careers. This works out to an average of 95 medical malpractice lawsuits having been filed for every 100 physicians now in practice, according to the association.
For the report, AMA surveyed 5,825 physicians from the 2007-2008 Physician Practice Information (PPI) survey, which is used to update the practice cost data to develop practice expense relative value units (RVUs) for the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. The measure of malpractice claims was determined by survey questions that asked doctors about the number of claims filed against them in their career and over the previous year; the survey did not ask about the outcome of those claims.
While physicians are likely to be subject of a lawsuit at some point in their careers, only about 5% of physicians are sued in any given year, the report found.
Certain specialities — including general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists — were more than five times as likely to be sued compared with pediatricians and psychiatrists, according to the report, which was written by Carol Kane, PhD, of the AMA. In fact, about half of Ob/Gyns under the age of 40 had already been sued, and 90% of surgeons ages 55 and older had been sued.
Comparatively, fewer than 30% of either pediatricians or psychiatrists were sued, and almost no one in either speciality had had claims filed against them in the previous 12 months.