Medical malpractice reform must be comprehensive
William I. Weston, J.D.
In response to a letter about medical malpractice, the issue of malpractice claims is a bit more complex.
First, many states tried mandatory arbitration and it worked well. I know because I was deeply involved as an arbitrator in one such program. However, it was the medical profession in that state that was most vocal in opposition to the program and ultimately marginalized it.
The answer of the medical profession and the insurance industry is always to limit the recoveries of the patients who suffer as a result of medical error and those who represent the patients because of insurance costs. However, the insurance companies throughout this entire period have made incredible profits. Furthermore, more than one study has shown that the amount of medical error far exceeds the number of medical malpractice claims. So, there is a real need for insurance reform to spread the cost of malpractice insurance more effectively over a larger group of insured individuals.
Second, there is a need for physicians and hospitals to engage in a real and meaningful review of medical errors with real and meaningful consequences for continued misconduct instead of the spotty enforcement process that now occurs. Yes, there is also a need for reforms of the legal profession; but not absent the medical profession’s serious and focused attention to medical error. The cost of malpractice is enormous and it drains all who are involved. But reform must be comprehensive, not just focused on victims and their counsel.