Tom Baker has it right. He’s the author of “The Medical Malpractice Myth,” a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a recent contributor to the New York Times Op-Ed page.

I just read his column, “Liability = Responsibility” (July 11, 2009) and I completely agree with his argument that we need a medical liability system that is based on evidence. Not on punishment, not on personal gain, but on the truth.

Reform is desperately needed

Let’s look at some of the problems. Health care costs are astronomical. Health insurance without employer or government subsidies is out of the reach of most Americans. Doctors are paying more in liability insurance, while research shows that medical malpractice settlement amounts are decreasing. (Hmm. I wonder what’s behind the growing discrepancy between what insurance companies are charging doctors and what the companies are paying out to claimants?)

We can’t have it any other way though, because a system that imparts liability pushes doctors and hospitals to keep reducing preventable medical injuries.

‘Liability is a symptom, not the disease’

That’s what Baker says of rising medical care costs, and I agree. I think every person in the country has a stake in preventing medical injuries. I mean we are all at some point patients, and we all pay for a system that provides patient compensation for medical malpractice. The real cost comes from the root of the problem: preventable medical errors.

You can’t put the cart before the horse. Medical errors, not patient compensation, are what ring up extra costs for additional treatment. Research in 2006 by the Harvard School of Public Health even found that the majority of victims of medical malpractice do not even file claims.

Doing away with liability in medical malpractice claims removes a great impetus to improve practices and patient safety. The threat of liability has spurred hospitals to hire risk managers, surgeons to improve safety practices, and studies to be done of patient safety.

Let’s look at the evidence. Let’s have a constant drive to find out what works to keep patients safe, to understand where the real costs come from and what medical treatments are really worthwhile.

As Baker says in his opinion piece, “the real problem is too much malpractice, not too many malpractice lawsuits.”

Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529