Putting med-mal in check

Modern Healthcare - - Opinions Letters -

In­sti­tut­ing uni­ver­sal med­i­cal cov­er­age is a key step in pulling the plug on run­away med­i­cal mal­prac­tice law­suits, and the un­nec­es­sary ex­pense of de­fen­sive medicine that en­sues (“New doc pay­ment sys­tem needed,” ModernHealth­care.com, April 6).

One key driver in keep­ing the med­i­cal mal­prac­tice in­dus­try go­ing is the lack of al­ter­na­tive sources of funds for con­tin­u­ing care in many cases. Even in the ab­sence of any mal­prac­tice what­so­ever, a per­son or fam­ily fac­ing a fu­ture of con­tin­u­ing high med­i­cal costs for a chronic ill­ness or in­jury (brain dam­age from birth anoxia, for ex­am­ple), which is be­yond their means of pay­ment and is not cov­ered by in­surance is not likely to just crawl off into a hole and let things fes­ter. They will go af­ter the most ob­vi­ous source of fund­ing via a mal­prac­tice law­suit. If there are any peeps from the con­science about whether the doc­tor is truly at fault, they will be se­dated by the thought that “mal­prac­tice in­surance will pay.”

In con­trast, in Canada where med­i­cal costs from what­ever cause are en­tirely cov­ered, mal­prac­tice law­suits are rare, as is de­fen­sive medicine and su­per­flu­ous test­ing. It is il­le­gal to sue for pain and suf­fer­ing from mal­prac­tice, so the only grounds are ac­tual costs from lost wages, etc., stem­ming from the in­ci­dent. And the only cases that are worth bring­ing un­der these cir­cum­stances are so ob­vi­ous that it isn’t worth it for the doc­tors to fight them for such small amounts.

Ger­ald Zuck­ier Ham­den, Conn.

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