HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Ethel Zimmerman Wiener Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Henry and Allison McCance Professor of Business Administration, HBS


Doctors are battered by the medical malpractice system. They complain, with reason, about unpredictable jury awards, escalating insurance premiums, the emotional toll of litigation and the cost to their reputations of being labeled “negligent” because of outcomes beyond their control. Patients, too, often feel victimized by the system, enduring an average wait of five years for compensation for their injuries, and suffering the same emotional exhaustion from the drawn-out legal battle. The public gets stuck with a large part of the bill. When doctors practice “defensive medicine” to minimize their legal risk, we all pay for it. Doctors tend to believe capping damages on malpractice awards would solve their troubles. But the best evidence shows that although caps modestly constrain the growth of insurance premiums, they don’t reduce the number of claims or address any of the fundamental pathologies of the system.


Mello, Michelle, and Amitabh Chandra. "The Cap Doesn’t Fit." New York Times, July 11, 2009.