Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Joint Commission Panel Recommends Changes to Medical Liability System

February 10, 2005—As lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would overhaul the nation's medical malpractice system, a panel of medical experts urged both immediate and long-term system changes they said would improve patient safety.

The medical liability system "chills the identification and reporting of adverse events in health care" which in turn "undermines opportunities for learning" that could make the medical system safer, according to a new report from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

The report urges health care providers and practitioners to increase attention to patient safety and medical injury prevention and to improve communication between patients and practitioners. A medical liability system redesign also should provide compensation for injured patients while encouraging health care providers and practitioners to report their errors, learn from their mistakes, and take action so the same errors do not occur again.

"Our current medical liability system has built a wall of silence" that discourages medical personnel from discussing their mistakes with each other and with their patients, said Dr. Eric B. Larson, director of the Center for Health Studies at the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.

Larson is one of 29 experts who helped write the commission's report, which contains 19 specific recommendations, including:

  • Strengthen oversight and accountability mechanisms to better ensure the competencies of physicians.
  • Allow health care researchers access to open liability claims to permit early identification of problematic trends in clinical care.
  • Encourage appropriate adherence to clinical guidelines to improve quality and reduce liability risk.
  • Create an Office of Health Care Quality in the Department of Health and Human Services to set national priorities for improving patient safety and health care quality.
  • Pursue "pay for performance" strategies that would provide incentives to focus on improvements in patient safety and health care quality.
Read the full report at

Publication Details