Interest-based mediation of medical malpractice lawsuits: A route to improved patient safety?

Chris Stern Hyman, Carol B. Liebman, Clyde B. Schechter, William M. Sage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Mediation of medical malpractice lawsuits provides savings for the parties by shortening the litigation process. In theory, information that aids emotional healing and improves patient care can also surface through mediation. The study discussed in this article used structured interviews of participants and mediators in thirty-one mediated malpractice lawsuits involving eleven nonprofit hospitals. The study measured perceptions of the process and mediation's effects on settlement, expenses, apology, satisfaction, and information exchange. Defense lawyers were less likely than plaintiff attorneys to mediate. Both plaintiff and defense attorneys were satisfied with the process, as were plaintiffs, hospital representatives, and insurers. Changes in hospitals' practices or policies to improve patient safety were identified. This study demonstrates that major challenges stand in the way of achieving mediation's full benefits. Absence of physician participation minimizes the chances that mediated discussion of adverse events and medical errors can lead to improved quality of care. Change will require medical leaders, hospital administrators, and malpractice insurers to temper their suspicion of the tort system sufficiently to approach medical errors and adverse events as learning opportunities, and to retain lawyers who embrace mediation as an opportunity to solve problems, show compassion, and improve care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-828
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Health Politics, Policy and Law
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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