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Reforming Medical Malpractice

Incompetent doctors killed my father. I won’t go into details, suffice it to say that the very good doctor that managed to give my father extra year of life after the butchery at the hands of the earlier quacks, all but admitted that he had been the victim of gross negligence. He died a few months short of his 68th birthday. He had managed to see me get married, but not long enough to meet his granddaughter, and not nearly as long as he would have had he received adequate medical care.

That is why I find myself enraged when I hear someone like George W. Bush talk about limiting medical malpractice awards because “good” doctors can’t afford the insurance premiums due to “frivolous’ lawsuits. I guarantee you that if a Bush, or Clinton, or Kennedy ever received the care that my father did the medical and insurance professions would be reformed tomorrow. Doctors would no longer work 48 hour shifts and make life or death decisions. Insurance companies would no longer be able to charge excessive premiums to “good” doctors, while covering the tracks of the butchers with out of court settlements.

In short, George Bush has never experienced the American health care system, so it is ludicrous to think that he should have any interest in making it work. That is why when positively forced to come up with a reform he gives us limiting malpractice awards. Because that is what the huge insurance companies who gave him money for just this eventuality tell him is needed to fix the system. If the insurance companies could just stop having to compensate those pesky malpractice victims and their families the system would be fixed as though by magic.

The problem is that malpractice accounts for less than 1% of health care costs in this country. The other problem is that every day incompetent doctors are killing and maiming their patients. I have to wonder how exactly removing the threat of a huge malpractice suit is going to improve their performance?

If you want to stop frivolous lawsuits then you should have every malpractice suit reviewed by a panel of retired doctors and medical malpractice attorney Minneapolis MN to determine its merit before it enters the court system. These panels can be funded by the fines that you charge lawyers that bring suits without merit. In no time at all, the frivolous suits would disappear and the load on the courts would drop as well. After all, most insurance companies are not going to go to court over a case that the panel has already said has medical and legal merit. Good doctors would be protected from frivolous suits and the bad doctors would hopefully go out of business as their insurance premiums skyrocketed.

This alone wouldn’t reform the American health care system, but it is a step. However, short of George Bush losing his father to incompetent doctors, a step is all we have.

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