Malpractice myths

New York Times
Monday, June 21, 2004

The power brokers obsessed with tort reform really have the jargon down. They travel the country with overheated stories about runaway juries and jackpot justice. The way they tell it, sinister lawyers and opportunistic plaintiffs are on the hunt, preying on virtuous corporations, hospitals and doctors in search of that big payout from the lawsuit lottery.
President Bush has been complaining about ''junk and frivolous'' lawsuits for years. So it's interesting to hear the following from the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer advocacy group:
''It may be hard to understand why 'tort reform' is even on the national agenda at a time when insurance industry profits are booming, tort filings are declining, only 2 percent of injured people sue for compensation, punitive damages are rarely awarded, liability insurance costs for businesses are minuscule, medical malpractice insurance and claims are both less than 1 percent of all health care costs in America, and premium-gouging underwriting practices of the insurance industry have been widely exposed.''
What is needed is a nationwide crackdown on malpractice, not a campaign to roll back the rights of patients who are injured. This is another utterly typical example of the Bush administration going to bat for those who are economically and politically powerful against those who are economically and politically weak.
Despite claims by the insurance industry, there is no evidence that soaring malpractice premiums are the result of sharp increases in the amounts of money paid out for malpractice claims. And, tellingly, industry executives are generally careful not to say that the tort reforms sought by the Bush administration will result in premium reductions.
This is all about greed. What tort reform will lead to, not surprisingly, is an unwarranted burst of additional profits for the insurance industry, which is why the industry is sinking so much money into its unrelenting campaign for ''reform.''
It would be helpful if the nation's many good doctors would blow the whistle on the insurance industry and its exploitive practices, and on the members of their own august profession who violate that essential maxim, ''First, do no harm.''
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us