Effects of the medical liability system in Australia, the UK, and the USA

Lancet. 2006 Jul 15;368(9531):240-6. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69045-4.


Although the direct costs of the medical liability system account for a small fraction of total health spending, the system's indirect effects on cost and quality of care can be much more important. Here, we summarise findings of existing research on the effects of the medical liability systems of Australia, the UK, and the USA. We find systematic evidence of defensive medicine--medical practice based on fear of legal liability rather than on patients' best interests. We conclude with discussion of four avenues for reform of traditional tort compensation for medical injury and several suggestions for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Defensive Medicine / economics
  • Defensive Medicine / methods
  • Defensive Medicine / trends*
  • Health Care Reform / economics
  • Health Care Reform / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Care Reform / methods*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Liability / economics*
  • Insurance, Liability / trends
  • Liability, Legal / economics*
  • Malpractice / economics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / economics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • United Kingdom
  • United States