Archive for the ‘frivolous lawsuits’ Category

Patient safety lost in health care debate

Lots of noise going back and forth about health care reform, but one issue, which is the elephant in the room, is getting little coverage.

Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued this report on the horrifying death toll caused by preventable medical errors. “Horrifying” isn’t over the top. We’re talking about 44,000-98,000 hospital deaths per year in U.S. hospitals caused by preventable medical errors. You would think those kinds of numbers would lead to instant action and a reduction, but the problem has gotten worse.

Kudos and appreciation to the Hearst news organization for an update. Unfortunately, it shows that 200,000 per year die from preventable medical errors. States, including Oregon,  have refused to pass mandatory hospital safety reporting laws.  Apparently, no one thinks that mandatory reporting of  preventable medical death information would change hospital practices.

The Oregonian ran with the story in its Saturday edition, but they somehow decided to leave it off of their website. That’s a shame, as they did a detailed local breakout.

So now we’re talking about health care reform. But for all the heat and light and jabber about government programs, single payers, “death panels,” and the like, no one is talking about reducing preventable medical harm.

So the better question is what about that elephant?

Why do we allow people seeking health care reform to demand limits on lawsuits when they refuse to talk about quality of care? With this level of deaths, why do we tolerate people complaining about “defensive medicine?”

If the medical and insurance industries want to hide errors, the one thing that must remain untouched is the right to trial by jury. Otherwise, we simply have an elephant in the room that will stomp another 200,000 people next year with no consequences. We need to be able to hold the medical and insurance industries accountable. And if the government will take no action, the jury is the next best thing.

Next time someone complains about malpractice cases, the practice of defensive medicine or frivolous lawsuits, ask them about the 200,000 deaths per year. If that number is too big, let’s break it down. It’s well over 500 people per day dead from preventable medical errors.  Wow.

The Hearst news system’s reporting at Dead By Mistake is timely, substantive and informative. In short, this is journalism at its best.

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Governor Palin discovers the need for an open civil justice system

I was taken by this 4th of July missive from Governor Palin’s attorneys relating to a claim for defamation. I know nothing of the statements or claims, but apparently Gov. Palin’s legal team takes issue with those who claim that Gov. Palin resigned because of a pending corruption investigation.

Like I say, I don’t know a thing about it and have no opinion about any of it. But what catches my eye is that Gov. Palin and her legal team are not bashful about resorting to the courts to assert claims for defamation.

I suppose that this is as it should be, but I can’t help but chuckle. I know that Gov. Palin has complained about too many lawsuits, frivolous lawsuits and the like many times over. Even so, she does not hesitate to threaten litigation when her ox is being gored.

I have no quarrel with her upset or the prospect that she might choose to sue. But let’s be clear that those who resort to the courts should have no basis to question others who do exactly the same thing.

In the case of Gov. Palin, defamation is a tricky claim. It requires proof of false statements. It also requires proof that the false statement caused injury to reputation. I have a hard time seeing how Gov. Palin could prove injury to reputation, even if the statements are false. But that, of course, is a question for a jury.

At bottom, I will forever more say, “Oink!” anytime Gov. Palin or her supporters criticize others who might seek relief through the civil justice system. After all, if it’s acceptable for Gov. Palin to use the civil justice system with what might be a questionable claim, the rest of us should not be hit with a higher standard.

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