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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.