Tort reform and especially caps tomedical malpractice damages is a hot button topic. No one seems to get the premise behind
penalizing patients twice for medical negligence.
It is public knowledge that medical negligence in the USA (and other countries)
is, quite frankly, rampant. Recent statistics show that medical mistakes
happen in one third of hospital admissions, and it will get worse as the
population grows, the health care system gets overtaxed, the number of
doctors dwindles and the pressure cooker that medical professionals work
in continues to get more stressful.
What is completely incomprehensible is the fact that politicians, and authorities
in other industries like insurance, insist on trying to reduce accountability
and the legal rights of seriously hurt or dead patients that the medical
profession failed. It is actually not much of a surprise that politicians
and the insurance industry are holding hands in trying to reduce legal
accountability. Their bottom line is keeping the dollars they make on
insurance, not giving it out to patients.
Not all insurance companies are avaricious vultures. In fact, there is
the odd insurance carrier that has decided to take a progressive step
forward by suggesting to hospitals that they implement a comprehensive
patient safety program. This particular program, rolled out in the labor
and delivery unit at one of New York’s largest hospitals, saw insurance
What did they do? Among other things, the program required training teams
with the aim of improving communication, implementing e-medical record
charting to eliminate any mistakes in reading doctor’s handwriting,
revamped on-call scheduling, set up new drug regimens, ensured physician’s
assistants were used appropriately and held obstetric emergency drills.
This is innovative and really, these steps should be implemented when
a mother delivers a child.
The results of these changes indicate that the program significantly reduced
adverse events and, in turn, had an immediate impact on compensation payments.
By educating the obstetrics team, making lines of communication clearer,
making safety changes for patients and improving how patients were treated,
the number of medical malpractice claims dropped. Why are politicians
and other authorities not speaking up about this?
If people truly paid attention to this issue, they would recognize that
penalizing medical malpractice victims twice – once when their doctor
fails them and twice when the courts unjustly diminish an equitable award
– does not help the victim. It does not help the system reduce medical
malpractice claims. Instead, the claims remain at an all-time high and
more awards (at a lesser amount) are being paid out for medical errors.
On the other hand, teach medical professionals these steps and they can
then protect and save lives more. Teaching a medical team how to work
with and for their patients, and fewer medical errors are made and compensation
claims drop. That is what saves money. Stealing the bulk of a medical
malpractice plaintiff’s jury award for an egregious act committed
by a doctor does not save money, unless you count the money the insurance
company kept. Never forget that a victim’s life was completely ruined
by medical negligence – the kind of medical negligence that doctors
seem to think they should not have to pay for, in any way, shape or form.
In other words, what happens to the victim in all this? This is an issue
that people need to take a prompt, close look at. As a nation that prides
itself on justice for all, it is stunningly ironic that governments and
insurance companies think denying
medical malpractice victims their due justice is an okay thing to do. It is not – period.