Study Finds Correlation Between Medical Malpractice and Personality Traits

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med malA recent study reported by the New England Journal of Medicine linked certain personality traits (or lack thereof) in physicians to increased medical malpractice claims.

The Journal utilized data from the The National Practitioner’s Data Bank (NPDB) for medical malpractice claims paid against physicians between 2005 and 2014; 66,246 claims paid against 54,099 doctors. The data presented a few noteworthy conclusions;

  1. Approximately 1% of the 54,099 doctors included in the study (or 541 doctors) accounted for 32% of all paid medical malpractice claims.
  2. Among the 54,099 physicians with paid claims, 84% appeared only once during the study, 16% appeared twice, and 4% appeared at least three times.
  3. Physicians connected to more than one paid medical malpractice claim all shared a lack of comforting characteristics, including communication, responsiveness, availability, and empathy.
  4. Patients who are unhappy with their treatment, medical and/or personal, are more likely to sue.
  5. Patients who are happy with their physicians personality or who feel that their physician genuinely cares from them, find it difficult to sue.

Physicians’ Personality Can Affect Care

compassionate doctor The results of the Journal’s study seem to speak a somewhat obvious truth; that compassionate and caring doctors make better overall caregivers than those that lack empathy and an ability to connect to their patients.

Physicians who are empathetic to their patients’ suffering and who take time to effectively communicate with their patients not only make their patients feel better/safer, but according to the study, provide better and more satisfactory medical care. These doctors also tend to be sued less, perhaps in spite of medical errors.

Apology Statutes

Many states in the US have recently enacted an “Apology Statute” which disallows the use of an apology or a “gesture of sympathy” as evidence or admission of guilt in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, this statute is formally titled The Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act. As consumers and patients, it’s important to understand that this legislation DOES NOT mean that an apology is a relinquishment of professional responsibility. It just means that an attorney can’t use an apology against a physician in court.

When dealing with serious medical errors, the damages speak for themselves. If your physician has deviated from the standard of care and has caused serious injury or even death, his/her apology or gesture of sympathy does not exonerate them from responsibility for your injuries. As a patient, you are entitled to compensation for any injuries sustained through medical malpractice or negligence, regardless of any heartfelt or sympathetic apology.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys

At Messa & Associates, we are committed to improving patient safety. Virtually every day, we console clients whose lives have been irreparably changed because hospitals and physicians break patient safety rules and deviate from standards of care. We feel the impact that these harms and losses have on victims, their families, and their friends. We remain frustrated by witnessing the number of preventable errors that routinely occur.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Messa & Associates are experienced in handling complex medical malpractice cases, including but not limited to MRSA infections, surgical site infections, foreign objects, missed diagnoses, surgical errors, and treatment errors/negligence. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to medical negligence at a hospital, nursing home, or rehab facility, act quickly. Call a medical malpractice attorney from Messa & Associates today, before your rights to legal compensation have expired. Call 877-MessaLaw for a free consultation or submit an inquiry online for a free case evaluation.


Call the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates today to discuss your case with a professional who has the knowledge to answer your questions or submit a free online inquiry.

Call, toll-free, 1-877-MessaLaw (637-7252), or submit a free online inquiry form.

About the Author:

Director of Marketing for Messa & Associates located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For all marketing or press release communications, contact

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