In law, malpractice is type of tort in which the misfeasance, mailfeasance or nonfeasance of a professional under a duty to act fails to follow generally accepted professional standards. It is committed by a professional or her/his subordinates on behalf of a client or patient that causes damages to the client or patient. Perhaps the most publicized forms are medical malpractice and legal malpractice by medical practitioners and lawyers respectively, though accountants (Arthur Andersen) and investment advisors (Merrill Lynch) have been in the news lately.
The medical profession and insurance industries argue that lawsuit abuse increases the cost of health care and threatens access to health care for all Americans. On the other hand, lawyers who handle medical malpractice claims note that the quality of health care in the United States of America is among the best in the world, and they contend that it is largely due to the ability of citizens to obtain an effective judicial remedy when they are victimized by medical malpractice. Insurance companies claim that studies show that very few medical liability lawsuits stem from what they call true malpractice, and they argue that very few cases of actual malpractice end up in suits. Lawyers note that that is because of the extremely high cost of pursuing medical malpractice claims, which is in part due to the reluctance of physicians to testify against their colleagues, forcing Plaintiff's lawyers to spend large sums of money for expert witnesses from distant locations. The insurance industry claims that the cost of defensive medicine, in which physicians order tests or treatments for medico-legal rather than clinical reasons, has been documented to be as large as $50 billion per year, but, once again, those involved in the legal system believe that accountability has produced a health care system second to none in the world, and that the extra cost of the best in health care is well worth the additional expense.
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