Tort liability and obstetricians' care levels
In this study, we assess practice changes made in response to the threat of tort liability in the field of obstetrics, which has one of the highest levels of premiums, claim frequency, and mean dollar value of paid claims. There is much "conventional wisdom" about effects of tort liability risk on obstetrical practice based on obstetricians' perceptions of changes that have occurred. Our data comes from the Survey of Obstetrical Care in 1992, a survey of 963 women who had given birth in 1987 in 31 counties in Florida conducted for purposes of this study and related studies of medical malpractice and birth outcomes. Our results suggest that some antenatal testing is responsive to variation in the threat of being used. But for most measures included in our study, half of the antenatal testing variables, the decision to perform a cesarean section, and various dimensions of maternal satisfaction with care, our empirical analysis failed to reveal that obstetricians practice more "defensively" in areas with relatively high suit rates.
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