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Examining malpractice claims against M.D.s vs. D.O.s

Every year, patients in Springfield and throughout the rest of the U.S. suffer due to medical mistakes or doctor errors. While some may view these instances as being few and far between, enough occurred in 2012 to result in $3.6 billion in medical malpractice settlement payments according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

Some may look to an individual practitioner’s professional qualifications as an indicator of his or her likelihood of making a mistake. In the United States, the vast majority of physicians carry the title of Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). This leads to the question of what is the difference between the two, and is one more likely to face accusations of malpractice.

M.D.s practice what many view as the traditional form of medicine, focusing on the symptomatic treatment of disease. This method is referred to as allopathic medicine. Osteopathic medicine, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach to health care. D.O.s pay more attention to a patient as whole rather than focusing on individual symptoms when determining a diagnosis. Rather than simply looking to treat symptoms, D.O.s will often encourage patients to trust in the body’s natural ability to fight disease. In terms of education, M.D.s and D.O.s receive the same amount of instruction and training, and both are allowed to practice within the same disciplines.  

Data compiled by the National Practitioner Data Bank shows that there were 174,895 medical malpractice claims filed against M.D.s and 14,759 claims filed against D.O.s from 2003 to 2013. While the differences between those two numbers may seem staggering, consider that during the same time, 102,579 M.D.s were listed as practicing in the U.S. compared to only 8,319 D.O.s. Given the number of claims filed per provider, the average comes out to be exactly the same: 1.7. 

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