Doctors should be held accountable for the consequences of their mistakes like everyone else in society. If you make a mistake and it causes harm to a patient that has placed his or her trust in your hands and it results in the inability to enjoy day-to-day life as you knew it before, should you be limited in compensation by a jury because the injury was caused by a doctor? Should different rules apply to doctors when they injure someone? The myths of too many large verdicts have been driven by large and powerful insurance companies. Contrary to the propaganda that has been used to poison the thinking of potential jurors, there are very few “frivolous lawsuits” and far less large or significant verdicts. There are, however, frivolous defenses that are used to try to avoid responsibility for mistakes.
The truth is that most cases result in the injured party being undercompensated or not compensated at all for medical mistakes. Ask someone you know that has been the victim of malpractice and has gone through the process of proving a doctor’s negligence because he or she refused to accept responsibility, whether they feel that the system was fair. Ask them whether they would in a heartbeat trade the limited amount of recovery that they received for the precious ability to enjoy their lives without pain and suffering.
The truth is that most medical mistakes never result in a lawsuit. The truth is that even when doctors are proven to be negligent, juries throughout the U.S. and in Ohio still find justifications to excuse the doctor and hospital. Why? Because the average person has been convinced that lawyers are the problem and that doctors are the victims. It is time to stop the lies and realize that there is not a medical malpractice crisis. There is an insurance crisis driven by big business that has harmed patients and caused doctors to be charged excessive insurance premiums only to increase the net profit of the insurance companies and the insurance industry. It is time for insurance companies to tell the truth.
There is an epidemic of malpractice and patients are being harmed in alarming numbers. These are facts and not lies or fiction. Yet, in an editorial recently published in The St. Petersburg Times, a doctor not surprisingly endorsed the accountability of expert witnesses who could testify against her in a medical malpractice case, while also endorsing the new law that weakens accountability requirements for doctors.
This is hardly a balanced or objective argument.
Dr. Madelyn E. Butler’s assertion that the new legislation “makes Florida a friendlier place to practice medicine” is tantamount to saying it’s now easier for doctors to make major medical mistakes in Florida that injure or kill patients, and not have to answer for them.
Her perspective is not surprising, given that she is President of the Florida Medical Association. It would not be far-fetched to believe that her opinion is influenced by politics and special interests.
If physician accountability creates a “dangerous medical liability climate,” what does the new legislation do for people who suffer catastrophic injuries or -worse- die at the hands of doctors who know their accountability has been limited? Is this not a more dangerous scenario?
Dr. Butler ignores the fact that the independent/conservative studies find that medical mistakes take the lives of 90,000 Americans each year and injure a million. What is most astonishing is that 9 out of 10 medical errors do not end up in a lawsuit or claim. How is it a dangerous climate to create a deterrence to mistakes and provide for compensation of those who are hurt by professional mistakes?
Dr. Butler claims that “Medical liability reforms such as HB 479 will make Florida a better place to practice medicine, positively affecting patients’ access to care.” She fails to see that care without accountability is unconscionable.The reform indeed favors doctors, not patients’ access to responsible care or to their rights to justice.
By capping damages, the law only punishes those patients who have been most seriously injured by malpractice. By requiring out-of-state expert physicians to obtain certification, it punishes victims because in-state doctors can always find other friendly doctors to testify for them. The patients face a more difficult battle because doctors within the state are often fearful of testifying against other doctors or hospitals, since their livelihood (and reputation and referrals) could be damaged.
The law is bad for everyone except those hospitals and doctors who make mistakes that hurt patients.
Dr. Butler, a practicing OB-GYN, also omits the fact that most OB-GYNs refuse to carry malpractice insurance, thereby guaranteeing that the few who do will pay a huge amount. Insurance is about risk spreading, which is why if only 10 people in a county carry car insurance their premiums would be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Let me end on this rhetorical question: Do you think it is fair to limit the recovery of a baby that will need lifetime care and treatment due to the negligence of a doctor? Do you think it is fair that a patient that suffers a preventable stroke due to a careless mistake during surgery should be limited to no more than $500,000.00 for pain and suffering for a lifetime of 24 hour, 7 day a week suffering and inability to enjoy the basic joys of life like walking, talking, caring for yourself, etc. all to make it easier for the doctor to “practice” again on other patients?