Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tort Reform

I could go on and on about the topic of medical tort reform but in a brief essay I can say what needs to be heard . In New York, all neurosurgeons who have been in practice for more than two years have been sued for malpractice. The average number of suits is just shy of one a year. So a neurosurgeon in private practice for twenty years can expect to be sued almost twenty times. If each suit suggests that bad doctoring has been going on, one must therefore assume that all neurosurgeons in New York are performing substandard care on a regular basis. The only other explanation is that doctors are being sued, not because they are providing substandard care, but because patients think that they should sue when an outcome is not perfect (and believe it or not, some just lie about it.) Who tells them it's appropriate to sue? Why the lawyers, of course. They know that the harassment of a suit pushes many doctors to settle rather than have to spend years worrying about a case and weeks to months in court when they should be taking care of patients. Lawyers are happy when doctors settle because it's far less work for them. Don't forget that in an effort to minimize suits, doctors are told to order countless tests so that no lawyer can say that perhaps "the one test" that wasn't performed may have lead to a different outcome. Even more unsettling, doctors perform invasive procedures and even operations because they fear that if they do not do "everything" some lawyer will say they did not do enough. All doctors know this to be true. No one is of the opinion that patients who are the victims of substandard care should not be compensated. We need a system that accomplishes this goal justly and fairly and appropriately. We can use the money wasted on paying into the legal system and use it instead to provide health-care to more of our citizens.

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