• Commentary
  • Published April 2011

The social cost of adverse medical events, and what we can do about it.

The annual cost of preventable adverse events to the United States health care system has been estimated as $17 billion, but this study estimates the total social cost of adverse events to approach $950 billion, or more than 40% of total health care spending. In this context, the social cost refers to the economic costs associated with lives lost or injuries suffered as a consequence of adverse events, be they preventable or non-preventable. The authors advocate for a no-fault malpractice system as a potential means of improving the equity of compensation for patients who suffer adverse events, given the documented ineffectiveness of the current malpractice system at compensating patients who suffer preventable harm. A no-fault system is currently in place in New Zealand.

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