The ability to hold a medical professional liable for negligent behavior that results in harm is one that has existed for centuries. The modern iteration of this type of claim has roots in English law- one of the first recorded cases of medical malpractice was litigated in the fourteenth century. The term ‘malpractice' is derived from the Latin “mala praxis”, and was coined by Sir William Blackstone in the 1765 “Commentaries on the Laws of England”.
Medical malpractice claims eventually migrated to the United States and continued to evolve over the past few centuries. Currently, each state has specific rules regarding how a medical malpractice claim may be brought forth and litigated. However, the topic is far from static. There continues to be a serious debate about medical malpractice claims- ranging from how they may be filed, who is entitled to file, their place in our medical and legal systems, and the ethical ramifications of such claims.
In the United States, many parties have an interest in medical malpractice litigation - physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, attorneys, federal and state governments, lobbyists, and so much more. In this section, we will explore the history of medical malpractice law and discuss several of the debates that are currently in place today.