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Limiting Malpractice Law Suits Will Not Fix Nation's Health Care Crisis

Our nation's health care system is a mess.  Those who work with injured individuals on a daily basis are well aware of the frustrations that our clients have in obtaining health care that is both readily available to them and affordable.  Insurance companies constantly are throwing up road blocks to accessing medical care.  We need health care reform and we need it now. Those who are victims of brain injury know the difficulties they have in getting proper rehabilitation care and the arbitrary limits that health care insurers place upon treatment.  Those who have sustained brain damage as a result of medical errors, know that they are entitled and deserving of full compensation for their injuries, disabilities and loss of earnings.

Health care reform however should not be confused with medical malpractice deform and proposals to link changes in the medical malpractice compensation system with health care reform should be disregarded as ill founded and without merit in attempting to solve our health care crisis.

The following guest editorial from the president of the American Association for Justice is reprinted here for your review. 

The health care crisis is one of the most complex issues facing our country. Ultimately, a national solution will boil down to two major tenets: lowering costs while improving quality, and covering the uninsured.

Changing the legal system will not solve any of these problems. Doing so will only make it harder for patients injured by medical negligence, through no fault of their own, to pursue legal recourse.

Discussing negligence as part of health care reform is a distraction from the debate. Numerous studies and economic experts, such as the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Budget Office, have detailed how tampering with the legal system will save health care practically no money. One study showed that medical negligence lawsuits were a tiny percentage of civil cases.

Fixating on the legal system ignores the larger issue: patient safety. As many as 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors. If medical negligence becomes rarer, so will the number of injured patients who need to seek legal recourse.

A few hospitals are using programs that encourage doctors to disclose errors and apologize to injured patients as a way to avoid litigation. As long as there are strict protocols to protect the legal rights of patients, these programs offer compelling ways to foster openness and defuse what is often an emotional and difficult experience. Even so, these programs are not one-size-fits-all. For patients injured by clear negligence, saying "I'm sorry" does not repair physical disfigurement or relieve pain and suffering. Proper compensation must be provided.

Any "reform" that makes it more difficult for injured patients to seek legal recourse is unacceptable. Alternatives such as health courts not only deny people their guaranteed right to trial by jury, but they also nonsensically create a whole new bureaucracy to accommodate just one select profession.

Limiting the legal rights of patients will do nothing to provide insurance coverage or lower health care costs. Eliminating errors and keeping patients safe will most certainly accomplish these goals. And this is something all of us can support.

The brain injury attorneys and medical malpractice attorneys at the New York law firm of De Caro & Kaplen, LLP support changes in our health care system without limiting patient right's to sue for full and fair compensation.



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