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The Danish option

Our “Ending Paralysis” series continues with a look at how the American response to medical malpractice differs from the approach taken in Denmark, where litigation has been completely removed from the compensation process.

Instead, a patient’s complaint about his or her injury is sent to an independent panel comprised of lawyers, doctors and administrators. There’s no courtroom and no testimony. The panel examines the patient’s medical records and compare it against this standard:

Would an experienced specialist in this field have acted differently, thereby avoiding the injury?

If so, the patient is entitled to compensation, which is payed for by Danish taxpayers.

Under the Danish system, an estimated 30 times more patients are compensated for medical malpractice and payments come — on average — within six or seven months. Payments average roughly $50,000 and are capped at $2 million.

Producer William Brangham went to Denmark to investigate.


  • Really?

    What strikes me most about this wonderfully done coverage of the need, change, address, etc. is how the driving force for the discussion came from Obama. What a joke!

  • Charles

    I confess to not fully understanding the post from “Really?” If it is meant as sarcasm, there is a good point to be made. In negotiating the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats did everything they possibly could, to rebuff any efforts to reform the medical malpractice litigation system in the United States. To be fair, medical malpractice litigation, and tort reform, is generally a matter of state law and not federal law.
    But in state after state all across the country, and in both houses of Congress, the Democrats are under intense pressure from their major supporters in the trial bar, to resist any and all initiatives to reforms to tort law.
    The driving force for this discussion did not come from the Obama Administration. This discussion is substantially resisted by the Obama Administration. The driving force for this discussion comes from the never-ending, budget-busting upward pressure on health care costs, and the politics comes from Republicans, who would like to reform the system.

  • John

    What happens to the Doctor that is found to be at fault? I think the system appears to be very workable as compared to the current U.S. malpractice system.

  • Came2WrongCountry

    where’s the petition? Or, can I trade my u.s. citizenship for a Dane willing to trade? This country is too corrupt to fix and is hopeless.

  • Tejano

    You don’t want to do that. My mother-in-law lives in Denmark and she has stage IV lung cancer. While she had complained to her doctor on several occasions last year of a chronic cough and this year as of April of pain in her elbow. The cancer has spread from her lungs and established a tumor on her elbow. Just last month we discovered it to be Stage IV lung cancer and there is nothing that any her doctors can do for her other than treat her for the pain. Do I feel her original doctor was negligent? Absolutely!!!