Medical malpractice: the experience in Italy

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2009 Feb;467(2):434-42. doi: 10.1007/s11999-008-0582-z. Epub 2008 Nov 5.


At the present time, legal actions against physicians in Italy number about 15,000 per year, and hospitals spend over 10 billion euros (approximately US$15.5 billion) to compensate patients injured from therapeutic and diagnostic errors. In a survey summary issued by the Italian Court for the Rights of the Patient, between 1996 and 2000 orthopaedic surgery was the highest-ranked specialty for the number of complaints alleging medical malpractice. Today among European countries, Italy has the highest number of physicians subject to criminal proceedings related to medical malpractice, a fact that is profoundly changing physicians' approach to medical practice. The national health system has paid increasingly higher insurance premiums and is having difficulty finding insurance companies willing to bear the risk of monetary claims alleging medical malpractice. Healthcare costs will likely worsen as Italian physicians increasingly practice defensive medicine, thereby overutilizing resources with the goal of documenting diligence, prudence, and skill as defenses against potential litigation, rather than aimed at any patient benefit. To reduce the practice of defensive medicine and healthcare costs, a possible solution could be the introduction of an extrajudicial litigation resolution, as in other civil law countries, and a reform of the Italian judicial system on matters of medical malpractice litigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contracts
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Italy
  • Liability, Legal / economics
  • Malpractice / economics
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • State Medicine / economics
  • State Medicine / legislation & jurisprudence