You know, doctors don’t like to admit it, but even they turn to us trial lawyers now and then, as they have this week in California . The reason? The Governator, a/k/a Arnold Schwarzenegger, exempted state hospitals from the requirement that an anesthesiologist be present when a nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia to a patient, without consulting the state’s medical board and board of nursing. Pursuant to Medicare rules, he was requirerd to do so.
California’s medical societies have spun this as a patient safety issue, i.e., the supervision of an actual doctor prevents mistakes and injuries, and can better correct them if and when they occur. But it is hard to ignore the fact that if doctors must be present in every case in which a trained, certified nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia, those doctors are going to make more money.
So who did the doctors call when they felt that their rights were being stomped on? That’s right. Trial lawyers. With their help, they have filed suit against Gov. Schwarzenegger. Which is a little odd, since most of the time, when doctors or their medical societies use “trial lawyer” in a sentence, it is coupled with words like “greedy,” “evil,” “opportunisitic,” and the like.
Of course, the reality is that trial lawyers may have saved your life, particularly if you were lusting after that cute little Ford Pinto some years back. And even now, if you think Toyota is taking the action it is with regard to accelerator pedals on its own, you are probably in another galaxy. It was trial lawyers, and the legitimate threat of lawsuits that would cost the company big money that was the ultimate motivator.
Perhaps if people had a natural tendency to take action to right wrongs they become aware of, we would not need us trial lawyers. But history teaches us otherwise. In yesterday’s NY Times , we learned some good news: that radiologists were finally taking the dangers of radiation therapy seriously by forming a safety task force and a central data base of errors that harmed patients. But the disappointing news was this. Such a step would never have been taken if the NY Times had not written two recent articles on the dangers of such therapy, and the lack of any safety systems that might help regulate such treatment. You don’t think the radiologists envisioned a law suit or two, do you?