Catastrophic Medical Malpractice Payouts in Spain

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Abstract

Patient safety and professional liability are major concerns worldwide. Despite the pervasive influence of catastrophic malpractice payouts, little is known about the specific characteristics and the overall relevance and characteristics of these payouts, especially outside U.S. borders. Five hundred fifty claims led to a payout among 2,236 claims from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2010, in Catalonia (Spain). We analyzed data on patient, provider, and claim characteristics. Accordingly to our sample, Spanish catastrophic payouts (SCP) were defined as payouts over €200,000, which was found in 32 cases (5.8%). Diagnostic errors and patient death were not as relevant as previously reported. However, it is remarkable that the literature emanating from different countries shows similar trends besides contextual differences: patients suffering minor injuries are not likely to receive a catastrophic payout, catastrophic payouts are associated with patient age less than one; SCP are most associated with anesthesiology and resuscitation, general surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology; and SCP were more likely to occur when a case went to trial compared to when a case was settled out of court. Studies, such as this, provide a wider picture of the medical liability worldwide reality and helps avoiding isolated discourses.

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