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Malpractice Reform and Health Care Reform Are Not the Same

Within President Obama’s speech on our national health crisis last evening were references to “reform” of medical malpractice litigation.  The problem is not that their are too many medical malpractice law suits, but that we have too much medical malpractice!

As medical malpractice brain injury attorneys, we see the tragic brain damage caused by medical errors.  We see brain damage caused by among other things, errors in anesthesia care, emergency room treatment, surgery, obstetrician and gynecological care as well pediatric care. These tragic and preventable errors lead to a life of disability for the victim and unimaginable consequences for their families.  To add insult to injury, the victim frequently cannot get the care that they deserve to correct the medical errors because of the refusal on the part of their health insurer to pay for comprehensive care and rehabilitation.  This refusal only adds to further injury and causes the taxpayer to foot the bill when care must be paid for by a state, Medicaid system. 

Here are some points in regard to medical malpractice that need to be stated in this debate on health insurance reform.

• Medical malpractice has no place in the health-care debate. Health care reform is about making sure that every American has access to quality, low-cost health care, not about limiting the legal rights of innocent patients harmed by medical negligence.
   
• Tort reform does not improve the quality of our health care system or produce cost savings. Forty-eight states have already enacted at least one medical malpractice tort reform measure. Yet, these legal restrictions have done nothing to improve our health care system—forty seven million Americans still have no health care, costs are still escalating and 98,000 Americans still die each year from preventable medical errors. Limiting the legal rights of injured patients will do nothing to fix these problems.
 
• Medical malpractice is about real people, with real injuries. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 98,000 people die each year in the US from preventable medical errors.  And, this number does not even include the countless other people who are injured by medical errors. Rather than reforming the legal system that provides protections to these injured patients, we must focus on reforming the medical system in this country to prevent these errors from ever happening in the first place.
 
• There is no medical malpractice crisis. In 2008, medical malpractice payments accounted to 0.2 percent of all health costs – the lowest level on record. Furthermore, researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health have found that nearly all medical negligence claims are meritorious, with 97 percent of claims involving medical injury and 80 percent involving physical injuries resulting in major disability or death.
 
• Americans should not have to give up rights, in order to gain the right to health-care. President Obama has repeatedly stated that in America, health care is a right.  Likewise, Americans should not have to relinquish their constitutionally protected 7th Amendment rights in order to gain access to quality health- care. 
 
• Lawmakers should focus on the key issues. Achieving consensus on the health reform is an extremely delicate balance. Lawmakers must not unnecessarily insert extraneous, controversial issues such as tort reform into an already complicated issue.
  
• Health courts would be an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare. They would exchange a patient’s constitutional right to a jury trial for a schedule of pre-determined outcomes that would be handed out by judges more interested in appeasing special interests than rendering justice to the injured patients standing before them. And health courts would not protect patients from wrongdoers, but instead, would shield doctors and hospitals from accountability for their careless, harmful acts. Health courts truly are an unfair proposition for patients. 

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