tort reform as a necessary part of U.S. healthcare overhaul

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healthcare expenditure graph

In the ongoing heated debate over the issue of healthcare reform of the United States Healthcare system, an issue which has barely been mentioned is that of tort reform. This is an issue that has been intermittently mentioned in the last decade of healthcare debates, but has somehow failed to gain traction in the current discussions over changes in the healthcare industry.  A likely contributor to this oversight is that the current healthcare bills going before congress have had for the most part Democratic champions, and the American Association for Justice (AAJ)– formerly known by the less misleading title of American Trial Lawyers Association– is a major donor to the Democratic Party. However, as a major part of the focus of the President’s message on health care reform lies with curtailing costs, the cost of the current litigious climate in healthcare must be taken into account.

Medical malpractice affects not simply physicians’ malpractice premiums and the costs to the physicians involved in malpractice cases, but also affects the specialties and states in which physicians choose to practice. Even more importantly, the current malpractice environment forces a defensive posture on the physician in the doctor-patient relationship which has greatly served to damage the profession and the rational use of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, leading to defensive medicine.  This poisoning of the current practice of medicine is further seen in educational programs geared at physicians. I recently enrolled in the American College of Emergency Physician’s national assembly meeting this fall to find that in a 4 day course that a full 10 approximately 1 hour lectures will be given directed at legal risk management. This should not be what we want our physicians focusing their minds on.

For a study describing the benefits of tort reform, see: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2008/03/03/prsa0303.htm
For more information on tort reform, go to: http://www.defendtortreform.com

Please contact the members of your congressional district letting them know your views on the need for tort reform as part of the overhaul of our healthcare system.

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3 Responses to “tort reform as a necessary part of U.S. healthcare overhaul”

  1. sharrisdoc Says:

    Very good and pertinent blog. As a physician, I see and personally feel on a daily basis the pressure from possible litigation. We must also make decisions not based on prices of drugs, possibly getting sued, etc. In this country it should become the norm that good medical treatment is mutually exclusive from fear of litigation. The patient and not the “lawsuit” should be the focal point of care. Thanks for the article.

    sheryl

  2. kndavis Says:

    This is a very important issue that has been neglected from the healthcare reform debate. Excessive tests, workups, and referrals are a large part of what is driving up healthcare costs. As a family doctor I often see tests ordered unnecessarily for fear of missing something that may later result in a law suit. Too many patients see medical errors as their cash cow rather than an unfortunate consequence of being human. Of course, some errors are egregious and people need to be able to be compensated for dangerous mistakes. But, when one patient asked me if he could sue because he got an asymptomatic bruise on his arm from phlebotomy for necessary blood work, I realized it is time for tort reform.

  3. defth Says:

    As a European Academic physician having worked for 15 years in University Public department of Surgery but also part time in a sort of private practice, I have another view on the Health care reform going on than the ordinary American folks.
    I cannot believe what I am hearing in this wonderful country! It is a shame what’s happening in the so-called best Democracy of the world.
    I cannot see the “Patient” in the discussions going on, all is about premium, money, socialism, government implication,hospital bill,drug company, insurance, medico-legal issue (another shame for US, in Eu we don’t know what that is, have never had any medico-legal issue in 15 years of oncology l and endocrine busy practice), where is the patient?
    The necessary reform for the only industrialized country of the world not offering health care to all its citizen has simply to put the patient in the middle of the debate, things will be easier to change. Where is the solidarity of this democracy? Open your eyes US!

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