A recent essay by Dr. Sandeep Jauhar in the NY Times describes physician discontent as connected with the gradual rise and power of insurance / managed-care companies over our collective and individual fates.
Sure we cringe as we see our reimbursements decline without reason or recourse. No one likes making less money for what they do. Likewise we deeply resent having to play their game regarding paper work, phone calls, rejections, appeals etc. for medication we prefer or procedures we believe necessary.
But of all the issues that have diminished the appeal of this noble profession none are approach the level of malpractice concerns and the defensive medicine they engender.
There is a built in assumption that when a physician is sued for malpractice, that there was some kind of intention to do harm. This is never explicitly stated. And any obvious intent to harm would automatically be considered a criminal offense.
But I do have a shocking revelation to make–we ARE human beings. We take on enormous responsibility for the health and welfare of other human beings. By and large we do the best we can. We are not perfect. If that isn't OK then we are all in trouble.
The usual case of malpractice involves some form of human error–a lab result not reviewed properly, a complication of a procedure, a mistake in diagnosis, a missed diagnosis.
Now all of the above are errors in medical practice. All need to be adddressed. There are consequences to dealt with and compensation to injured parties be acknowledged.
But to drag a physician in front of a jury who are, by the way, not his peers (in a medical information sense) and to render judgment is ludicrous and insulting to the profession.
Juries are greeted by "expert" witnesses who are paid by each side to present "expert" opinion on the guilt or innocense of the accussed. Strange how two "experts" could have diametrically opposed opinions.
Hmmm… How is a jury to decide which one is correct? I don't know and neither do they. The decision may be based on their subjective perception of the sincerity of the physician. Do they seem concerned, sorrowful, contrite? Do they seem like "nice" people? Or are they arrogant, unfeeling, cold and aloof?
You can pretty much predict an outcome based not on the facts at hand but on subjective impressions. This is not the right way to adjudicate issues of malpractice.
The American justice system is based upon the right to sue anyone at anytime. But the venue in malpractice cases MUST by taken out of the jury system and placed before panels of experts.
These panels would be comprised of doctors, nurses, laymen, lawyers, clergy, professors, or any other trained group who can objectively view the merits or weaknesses of a case and render a fair verdict. Damages for "pain or suffering" of a reasonable amount can be part of their job description.
Often the emotional toll for sued physicians extends far beyond the hours away from their families and practices. Let these cases by handled swiftly and judiciously. Allow my fellow physicians to move on in their lives.
Speak to anyone in health care.
Despite Obama's declaration that defensive medicine is not responsible for health care costs, everyone else on the planet knows that it absolutely IS! (To me, that statement completely linked him with a tremendous source of his campaign revenue– the Trial Lawyers).
So regardless of party affiliation, let's please face the obvious need in this country. Make me happy. Deal with tort reform. Now!!