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Bribing Our Way To Better Medical Care - The Clinton-Obama Approach To Tort Reform

May 25, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Category: Why Didn't I Think Of That?

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have paused on their march to the White House to deal with medical malpractice and our tort system. In the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine they have published an article that contains a few important truths and a proposal to bribe medical providers to level with patients.

Who can argue with the title of the article, Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform? And, any thinking person knows that caps on damages do not prevent medical errors or provide fair compensation to patients. (In fact, caps are designed to do just the opposite.)

Then we come to the bribe. Medical providers, apparently, require the establishment of a confidential disclosure system for medical errors. Clinton and Obama want to incentivize providers to do what their professional ethics and the medical standards of care already require be done - to report errors to injured patients and to others in the medical care system. A bribe by any other name is still a bribe.

If this concept has legs in the medical field, I can see its application to politics and government. Nothing else has worked to bring out the truth from the gang in Washington.

To improve both patient safety and the medical liability climate, the tort system must achieve four goals: reduce the rates of preventable patient injuries, promote open communication between physicians and patients, ensure patients access to fair compensation for legitimate medical injuries, and reduce liability insurance premiums for health care providers. Addressing just one of these issues is not sufficient. Capping malpractice payments may ameliorate rising premium rates, but it would do nothing to prevent unsafe practices or ensure the provision of fair compensation to patients.

Studies show that the most important factor in people's decisions to file lawsuits is not negligence, but ineffective communication between patients and providers. Malpractice suits often result when an unexpected adverse outcome is met with a lack of empathy from physicians and a perceived or actual withholding of essential information. Stemming the causes of medical errors requires disclosure and analysis, which create tension in the current liability climate.

To overcome the impasse in the debate on medical liability, we have introduced legislation, the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation (MEDiC) Bill (S. 1784), to direct reform toward the improvement of patient safety. Our proposed MEDiC program provides grant money and technical assistance to doctors, hospitals, insurers, and health care systems to implement programs for disclosure and compensation. The MEDiC model promotes the confidential disclosure to patients of medical errors in an effort to improve patient-safety systems. At the time of disclosure, compensation for the patient or family would be negotiated, and procedures would be implemented to prevent a recurrence of the problem that led to the patient's injury.

Any apology offered by a health care provider during negotiations shall be kept confidential and could not be used in any subsequent legal proceedings as an admission of guilt if those negotiations ended without mutually acceptable compensation.

Under our proposal, physicians would be given certain protections from liability within the context of the program, in order to promote a safe environment for disclosure. By promoting better communication, this legislation would provide doctors and patients with an opportunity to find solutions outside the courtroom.

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Comments

A contributing author who fails to cite his sources is not an author at all, but only a girl spreading rumors.

Posted by: Dr. Wood at October 26, 2006 02:34 AM

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