Today, I continue to focus on the fallacy of the tort “reform” movement. Because as Eric Turkewitz reaffirms in today’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog , and as I have argued, tort “reform” does not save lives–reforming careless medical practices will. And so, the “reformers” prattle on about legislation to cap awards and prevent access to the courthouse, while utterly failing to ever address reforms that would increase patient safety.
But let’s forget about reforms of legislation, and reforms of patient safety programs for a moment, and acknowledge that there is another area of needed reform that the insurance companies, medical societies and doctors don’t like to talk about. It’s doctor discipline. Medical societies fail at it, as do hospitals. Insurance companies could deny coverage to doctors with a well-established history of injuring or killing patients, yet they rarely do. Why would they, when doing so would deprive them of a steady income stream (premiums), and deprive the hospital at which the doctor works of an additional stream of paying patients?
Today’s Washington Post contains this article, “ Report: State Boards Don’t Punish All Doctors Sanctioned By Hospitals. ” And this isn’t the first article of its kind to be published. Why would reform in the area of doctor discipline be a good idea? Because it is the doctors who are being “disciplined” in the careless and ineffective manner that is the standard of practice today who are making most, if not all, of the errors that injure and kill patients. Cosumers’ rights groups have always maintained, based on a wealth of studies, that most doctors are competent and better, and that is a relative few incompetent doctors who make the majority of errors. So why is there no pending legislation mandating that wayward doctors actually receive the discipline or retraining deemed appropriate for them by state boards?
And why is there only one voice in the NYS legislature, that of Assemblyman Rory Lancman, advocating for legislation based on a proven method of reducing costs and injuries, i.e., the groundbreaking patient safety initiative at NY Weill Cornell Medical Center, which resulted in a 99% reduction in costs and injuries? Shouldn’t this system by instituted at all NYS hospitals?
And how is it that major medical centers who claim to bear the brunt of so-called “runaway” medical malpractice verdicts have CEOs making salaries in the millions of dollars that are funded by us, according to today’s NY Times ? Someone, or some movement, is not being honest here. And I can assure you that it is not the victims of medical malpractice.