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Do no harm

In the list of the economic dilemmas facing the nation, the cost of health care is right at the top. One of every six dollars in our national economy goes to health care, and the projections for the future all point in one direction: straight up.

Adding to the cost of health care in America? Medical malpractice lawsuits.

The controversy surrounding medical malpractice is hardly new, but because of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, the issue is getting some renewed attention.

There’s a provision in the Affordable Health Care Act that encourages states to experiment with medical malpractice reform — $50 million for expanded state demonstration projects — but critics say that more needs to be done to reform the system.

Every year, one in 14 doctors will be sued for malpractice. A survey by the American Medical Association found that ore than 60 percent of doctors over the age of 55 have been sued at least once in their career.

Most lawsuits will be dismissed, or resolved in favor of the doctor, but the cost of insuring against such suits can be huge — even to the point of driving some physicians out of the profession entirely. At the same time, the great majority of patients who suffer injury from malpractice never receive any compensation for what has happened to them.