01 March 2010

The truth about tort reform

The Republicans seem to think that tort reform is what's needed to improve our health care system. To the Fox News audience, it might seem like a good idea -- cracking down on those greedy trial lawyers, as they like to spin it.

But those are just code words for limiting medical malpractice lawsuits by implementing federal caps on non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

In reality, it's not about the trial lawyers. It's about the legal rights of everyday people who suddenly find themselves victims of preventable medical errors.

It's about the man who had the wrong leg amputated.

It's about the woman who had an unnecessary mastectomy because of a false cancer diagnosis.

It's about the baby who will have to live with cerebral palsy and mental retardation because of a mismanaged labor and delivery.

It's about the 98,000 patients who die each year as a result of medical negligence or wrongdoing -- the sixth leading cause of death in America.

And, as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) pointed out during last week's Health Care Summit in Washington, it's about the additional 4,800 people who will die each year if the Republican malpractice proposal were implemented, as estimated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Republicans are apparently too busy pandering for votes from the big hospital conglomerates and physicians' associations to care about the victims.

And they are apparently too busy pandering for those votes to care about the real problems at the core of the health care crisis.

It's all about protecting the medical-industrial complex from those who might suffer from its mistakes.

It's all about protecting the rich from being held accountable.

And that cannot be called health care reform.

The American Association for Justice sums up the real malpractice issue quite well on its website 98000reasons.org: "The best way to have fewer medical malpractice cases is to reduce the number of medical errors. If less people need to seek legal recourse, that means patients are getting safer. Patients that are safer also means lower costs to the health care system. Everyone can support this."

Well, everyone except the Republicans, it seems. They are obviously looking at a very different bottom line.

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