When Barack Obama spoke to the American Medical Association in June, the audience cheered for just one part of his health care proposals - tort reform. Why do doctors love tort reform so very much and should we love it too (hint: it is not an anti-obesity measure)?
Tort lawsuits cover any sort of unintentional or intentional harm caused by doctors (or anyone else). We all would be liable for any tort we commit, either through negligence or some other harm. Doctors are particularly fearful of tort lawsuits because the practice of medicine necessarily involves risky procedures and sick patients, many of whom sue their doctor, regardless of whether he is to blame.
Doctors accused of harming a patient in a medical malpractice suit are not on the hook for any harm that comes to a patient. Rather, doctors are only responsible if they are negligent, which means that they did not treat a patient in line with the prevalent standard of care called for by the patient's particular circumstance. Unfortunately, the standard for negligence suits is vague and leaves many doctors in fear of constantly being sued.