Letter to the Editor

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tiger Joyce’s recent op-ed, “Reduce Medical Errors and Groundless Suits” (Oct. 7), was unfortunately riddled with factual errors and misrepresentations.
The 2006 Harvard study Joyce mentions found that, contrary to his assertion, the legal system works well and, to quote it, “Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”
The impeccably credentialed study that he calls “flawed” — which finds that up to 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors — was done by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, a nonpartisan organization specifically created by the federal government to advise it on such matters. IOM’s findings, which President [Barack] Obama has quoted, have since been reinforced by many other studies that attribute even more deaths to preventable errors.
As for Joyce’s claim that “defensive medicine” costs up to $200 billion a year, Joyce had better read the Congressional Budget Office’s new figures on that. By enacting a menu of “tort reforms” so severe that no state has them all, CBO finds that, at most, there would be a 0.3 percent savings — about $6 billion­ — in health care costs due to defensive medicine. To accomplish this, CBO cites studies showing 5,000 more people would die of medical errors each year.
This is not a trade-off that anyone should tolerate.

Andy Hoffman
Center for Justice & Democracy
New York

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