California Hospitals Lax on Patient Safety Without Malpractice Legal Reform

The abysmal patient safety record of California hospitals exposed in a national report card highlights the lack of legal deterrence and safeguards to protect consumers.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on healthcare quality, gave nearly 40 percent of California hospitals a C, D or F grade. These poor grades revealed hospitals that were unable to significantly reduce infections, accidents and errors.

“This is a crisis that won’t be stopped until the laws catch up to negligent doctors and holds them accountable,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “We need to update a 40-year-old law that prevents injured patients and their families from having access to justice.”

A law passed in 1975 caps damages in malpractice cases – such as the death of a child – at  $250,000.  Many families are unable to hold doctors legally responsible for their egregious mistakes because the cap is so low it doesn't cover the cost of taking a doctor to court.

Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease and cancer. A study published in the Journal of Patient Safety found as many as 440,000 annual deaths occur in the U.S. due to preventable adverse events in hospitals. One in every 25 hospital patients will contract a new infection during their stay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cost of medical errors is $19.5 billion a year and could be as much as $1 trillion a year if lost productivity is included, according to a report issued by Sen. Barbara Boxer last year.

Check your local hospital:

The Leapfrog Group Report:

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