The tort “reformers” have been doing their usual whining, and I've been looking for a way to shut them up. Today, I may have come upon a solution, or at least, the foundation for a solution. And here it is: doctors, healthcare providers of all stripes, medical liability insurance executives, risk control managers, male and/or female and anything in between–it's time to man up–as in, take responsibility for your screwups that injure and kill patients, and then be quiet.
Why? Because you don't know how good you've got it here in America. Just take a gander at what the LawProfs will be eyeing come December in Austria. That's right, a global conference on medical malpractice which will include an idea unfamiliar to most US healthcare workers: criminal liability. As in jail, fines or both. Unless of course, you practice in a country where the sentences include stoning.
If you are sitting there slack-jawed and wondering what I mean by hectoring you to “Man Up,” I suggest you read Ben Zimmer's awesome On Language article in today's New York Times, which article is conveniently titled, “Man Up.” Though there are some definitions that are too reliant on the idea of an infusion of excess testosterone, the essential meaning is this: be a mensch, and live up to your responsibilities, i.e., to your patients. Don't deny liability. Don't fail to apologize. Don't open up your own MRI center, suggest to your medical network what a great idea it is to rule things out with MRI's, make a fortune, and publicly moan about the need to practice defensive medicine. Don't speechify about the medical malpractice “crisis,” because you and I both know that cases are way down. Don't bemoan what you are paying in medical liability premiums, because by now you have come to realize that your rates have little to nothing to do with with the amount of medical malpractice cases being defended. Don't make snide comments about plaintiff's lawyers, because you know that when one of your colleagues causes you lifelong grief after making a preventable error while treating your wife, child, parent, best friend, you'll come running to us, because we can help you.
If you think criminal prosecution of medical negligence can't or won't happen here, you are wrong. It has already, as is outlined in this article on the Criminal Prosecution of Medical Negligence. In fact (and as I have discussed in prior posts), two former colleagues in the Queens County District Attorney's Office successfully prosecuted an amoral OB/GYN who left a patient to bleed out and die in his clinic so that he could treat the many other unfortunates lined up in other rooms. He never called for help, even when he realized what was happening. It was outrageous. It was beyond gross negligence. And it should serve as a warning to those who continue to lump plaintiff's lawyers, plaintiffs themselves, and the mythical medical malpractice “crisis” together as one collection of fraudulent schemers paving the road to “jackpot justice.”
Get real. Man up. Be a mensch.