Liability reform


I just returned from an emergency medicine conference in San Diego.  Outstanding place for a conference, depressing to leave actually.  The prevailing theme at the conference was avoidance of law suits, and how to defend against them.  I strongly feel that any efforts by our government to reform our health care system has to include liability reform.  Every ER doc worries about this problem on a daily basis.  Every patient is a potential plaintiff, every complaint a potential disaster.  All of us are aware of cases where the ER doctor simply did their best job possible, and got sued anyway.  There are many cases where juries award huge sums of money to plaintiffs simply because they felt sorry for the defendant, even if there was nothing wrong with the medical care.  Plaintiff’s attorneys often file cases on contingency, so that the plaintiff doesn’t have to spend any money on the lawsuit, and the attorney is heavily motivated to acquire a large judgement.

As a result, physicians often practice defensive medicine–ordering lots of tests, CT scans, and admitting lots of patients who could probably be discharged home, for fear of liability.  They also have to pay huge liability insurance premiums.  On top of this, ER doctors are required by law to examine and stabilize any patient who arrives at their ER, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.  All of these factors result in increased costs to patients, and unhappy physicians.  I know that unhappy ER docs are not a primary concern of the general public, or the government, but they should be.  I for one, would like to have the best people available in the ER when I arrive with my heart attack, broken leg, stroke, or meningitis.  I have personally seen many ER docs hang up their stethoscope for jobs with lower liability, where they can make more money.  If the trend continues, quality will go down.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

MLP 03.31.09 at 1:23 am

Amen brother!

Steve Parker, M.D. 03.31.09 at 10:37 am

I agree 100%.


Wrin 04.01.09 at 6:17 pm


I’ll admit that instead of pursuing a medical degree I’m happily resting on my laurels in my union-protected benefit-cushioned pensioned health sciences profession. I have often thought about going to pursue a medical degree. It’s things like liability that keep me from wanting to.

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