Michelle Mello, JD, PhD
C. Boyden Gray Associate Professor of Health Policy and Law
Department of Health Policy and Management

Harvard, School of Public Health

The Accuracy of the Medical Malpractice System: What the Evidence Tells Us

September 28, 2007
12:00-1:30 PM
Colonial Penn Center Auditorium

Abstract Slides (PPT)

Michelle Mello is the C. Boyden Gray Associate Professor of Health Policy and Law in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. She holds a J.D. from the Yale Law School, a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.Phil. from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar, and a B.A. from Stanford University.

Dr. Mello conducts empirical research into issues at the intersection of law, ethics, and health policy. She is the author of more than 70 articles and book chapters on the medical malpractice system, medical errors and patient safety, research ethics, mass tort litigation, the obesity epidemic, pharmaceuticals, clinical ethics, and other topics. Current and recent projects include an investigation of the impact of the medical malpractice crisis on physician supply in Pennsylvania; a study of factors contributing to medical errors in the hospital; a study of legal relationships between academic investigators and industry sponsors of clinical trials; and a feasibility study of an administrative "no-fault" system of compensating medical injuries. Dr. Mello is also studying ethical issues confronting the pharmaceutical industry as a Greenwall Faculty Scholar.

Dr. Mello is Director of the Program in Law and Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health and Co-Chair of the School's Human Subjects Committee. She teaches courses in public health law and public health ethics at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Law School. In 2006, she was the recipient of the Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award from AcademyHealth for outstanding promise in the field of health services research.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently completed a 3-year, $3 million study in which nearly 1,500 closed malpractice claims were reviewed to investigate factors that contribute to medical errors and malpractice claim outcomes. In this presentation, Dr. Mello will discuss study results relating to two questions about the medical malpractice system: (1) how often does the system “get it wrong,” rewarding non-meritorious claims and denying compensation to meritorious ones, and what factors make claims at particularly high risk for a “wrong” outcome? (2) How well does empirical evidence about the causality of medical errors match the tort system’s conceptions of causation and the appropriate locus of liability?

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