Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Don Owens, Deputy Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7767

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779

David Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs
w. (202) 588-7742

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog

Follow us on Twitter


Sept. 9, 2009

President Obama Should Focus on Curbing Epidemic of Medical Errors, Not Shielding Those Responsible

Statement of David Arkush, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

We are extremely concerned about news reports that President Obama will discuss medical malpractice litigation tonight.

Medical malpractice “reform” will only increase costs, not decrease them. Providers will retain a strong incentive to overprescribe tests and procedures, and they will have even less incentive to work carefully and safely. Medical negligence often causes severe injuries that require life-long medical treatment. If providers are not required to pay for the harm they cause, then those costs are shifted to the government and the taxpayers.

The nation faces an epidemic of preventable medical errors, which the president has acknowledged cost 100,000 lives per year. Public Citizen reported last month on 10 simple steps that could save, conservatively, 85,000 lives and $35 billion per year. President Obama should focus on improving patient safety with steps like these, not reducing accountability for negligent doctors and hospitals.

Some claim that medical malpractice litigation is driving up medical costs, but the facts completely contradict this claim. Public Citizen reported in July that although medical costs have skyrocketed in recent years, the costs of medical malpractice litigation are at their lowest level on record, amounting to just 0.6 percent of total health care costs.

Some claim that so-called “defensive medicine” is driving up health care costs, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Study after study, including by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, has found no evidence of a link between “defensive medicine” and rising health care costs.  Further, no study has distinguished successfully between “defensive medicine” and appropriate care for patients.

The most obvious cause of overuse of medical tests and procedures is the fee-for-service system, in which medical providers are paid for each service they perform rather than for providing quality care. Providers have a strong incentive to provide excessive care even in the absence of liability concerns.

The president has made much of his commitment to “evidence-based policy.” We applaud that commitment and urge him to adhere to it when considering accountability for medical errors.

READ Public Citizen’s report on reducing medical errors. http://www.citizen.org/documents/BackToBasics.pdf.

READ Public Citizen’s report on the declining cost of medical malpractice litigation.


Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


You can support the fight for greater government and corporate accountability through a donation to either Public Citizen, Inc., or Public Citizen Foundation, Inc.

Public Citizen lobbies Congress and federal agencies to advance Public Citizen’s mission of advancing government and corporate accountability. When you make a contribution to Public Citizen, you become a member of Public Citizen, showing your support and entitling you to benefits such as Public Citizen News. Contributions to Public Citizen are not tax-deductible.

Public Citizen Foundation focuses on research, public education, and litigation in support of our mission. By law, the Foundation can engage in only very limited lobbying. Contributions to Public Citizen Foundation are tax-deductible.