The civil justice system is necessary because other disciplinary mechanisms are woefully inadequate. State medical boards, for instance, are supposed to discipline doctors who consistently violate standards of care. Yet less than nine percent of doctors who make multiple malpractice payments are ever subject to medical board discipline. Two-thirds of doctors who make 10 or more malpractice payments are never disciplined at all

Nor are hospitals stepping up to protect their patients. Though they are on the front line of patient safety and are required to review medical care through peer review and other processes, 49 percent of U.S. hospitals have never reported a single disciplinary action against one of their doctors since the National Practitioner Databank was created in 1990.i

National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) data indicate just six percent of doctors are responsible for 58 percent of all negligence incidents.ii The civil justice system seeks to weed out those few doctors whose actions have such devastating impact on patients.

  • 6 percent of doctors have been responsible for 58 percent of all malpractice payments since 1991.
  • 2 percent of doctors, having three or more malpractice payments, were responsible for 33 percent of all payments.
  • 1 percent of doctors, having four or more malpractice payments, were responsible for 20 percent of all payments.
  • 82 percent of doctors have never had a medical malpractice payment.

i Annual Report, 2006, National Practitioner Databank,, table 15.
ii The Great Medical Malpractice Hoax: NPDB Data Continue to Show Medical Liability System Produces Rational Outcomes, Public Citizen, January 2007.