This article explores the policy issues raised by the choice between a custom-based standard of care and a jury-determined reasonability standard. The author examines not only traditional legal arguments but also the recent findings of cognitive psychology, jury performance studies, and health industry research. Not surprisingly, this analysis reveals that both options are imperfect. However, the author cautiously recommends the reasonable physician standard. The revolutionary transformation of the health care industry in last quarter of a century has transferred considerable power from physicians to the health insurance industry, an industry that has not yet earned the privilege of self-regulation. Unlike the custom-based standard, the reasonable care standard assigns the task of standard-setting to representatives of the community and not to the regulated industry. And because the reasonable physician standard precludes unilateral establishment of the standard of care by the health care industry, it is also more likely to force the health care industry to engage the community in a conversation about health care cost and quality. For these reasons, it worth taking the risk that juries will be more resistant to cost control measures than health policy analysts would recommend.
Philip G. Peters Jr., The Role of the Jury in Modern Malpractice Law, 87 Iowa L. Rev. 909 (2002)