Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's Tort Reform Again

What is tort reform and why should it scare you?  One explanation off the internet is: Tort reform refers to proposed changes in the civil justice system that aim to reduce the ability of victims to bring tort litigation or to reduce damages they can receive.

In other words it lowers your chances of bringing a lawsuit against someone who harms you or your family.  Tort reform limits or caps the type or amount of damages that may be awarded in personal injury lawsuits.  Let’s call them for the sake of this post, malpractice lawsuits.

What many people hear when you say the word “malpractice” is money and compensation and sue the doctor or hospital because people want money.  Well, just as some people want money, there are some healthcare professionals who should probably not be practicing medicine,  Just because someone completed school, maybe even got great marks and has been in the business for years doesn’t make them good at their job.

So let’s not call it malpractice. Instead think of medical injury.  An injury or death caused by the care one received while under the care of a medical team.  It could be because of malpractice; negligent professional activity or treatment. Or it could be because nurses are too busy and overworked and miss something.  It could be because there is broken equipment, test results not given to the patient or a wrong diagnosis is given by a caring and otherwise competent healthcare professional.  The patient is still in the center of all this and though many people want to protect the healthcare team from a lawsuit, who is protecting the patient?

A Johns Hopkins study reported just last year that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in thecountry.  Many studies before that have reported the dangers in care patients receive.  These studies were not reported by attorneys and they surely weren’t done by patients.  These studies come from some of the most highly respected medical teams and researchers.  Yet the conversation goes back to affording the right to a patient or their family to collect compensation when injured.

Most people will tell me “I don’t want the money” or “I don’t want to sue”.  I tell them that it is about the money because your attorney has a right to be paid to get you the answers you want or need. In many cases the healthcare professionals will not talk to the patient or family and on a few occasions when I tried to intervene I was told “let them sue us”.

For years, through PulseCenter for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy (formerly PULSE of NY) I have been trying to raise the money to continue our free community educational programs and our bedside advocacy services. We need to protect patients and inform them and their family members of the dangers that the people in healthcare are already aware of. 

So as we start hearing the conversation arise about tort reform once again and the lawyers and doctors fight it out – think of who is informing the patient and helping the family navigate this system.

Some very final thoughts:  
  • How much is your family member's life worth and should the state decide their price ahead of time?
  • Should this energy be spent on improving medical care by informing the public with patient safety information?  After all isn't it the patient who has the most to lose?
  • Why are we talking about capping payments when there are still such a call for improving patient care?
  • Why are lawsuits looked at as so awful when this is often the way to get answers.
  • Why are the attorneys looked at as the bad guy when it is the healthcare professionals they hire who decide if there is actually a lawsuit / malpractice.
  • Thousands of lawsuits or complaints are turned away because there was nothing that would have changed the outcome and that goes for someone who was ill, elderly or very young too.

No comments: