Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who says the Dems don't have any positive ideas?

The corporate media, that's who, who ignore ideas put forth by Democrats. The War Criminal in Chief's proposal to cap malpractice awards got plenty of press, but I'll bet a one week subscription to The Wilson Quarterly you didn't know that Hillary and Barack Osama have sponsored legislation called the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compesnation (MEDIC) Bill (S. 1784), in their words "to direct reform toward the improvement of patient safety." Just like the man said, the issue with the malpractice system is not that lawyers are persecuting poor little innocent doctors and juries are making preposterous awards to greedy people who are only pretending to be victims. The problem is that the system doesn't compensate or provide care for the majority of people who are injured due to medical errors, while putting doctors and hospitals in an adversarial position toward injured patients, and creating obstacles to improving safety and quality by creating strong disincenties for doctors and administrators to openly discuss the facts about adverse incidents.

The Senators discuss their legislation in the new NEJM, and as usual, you can't read it because you are just common trash. (Thanks to Gaudeamus for informing us that the NEJM, in a fit of civic responsibility, has made this piece available to non-subscribers.) In brief, it would create a national patient safety database and a new Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation Program. Through grants to hospitals and health systems, it would set up programs whereby participants would agree to make full disclosure to patients who are harmed by medical errors, negligence, or failure to follow the standard of care. They would then negotiate compensation, rather than entering into litigation. The anticipated cost savings -- which have been demonstrated in pilot projects -- would go toward efforts to improve patient safety and reduce errors.

Note that it would still be possible for patients to sue if they aren't happy with the outcome. But experience has shown that this is unlikely. The health care providers will know when they have a case that is hard to defend, and presumably make an adequate offer. At the same time, since patients and their counsel will get full disclosure from the providers of what actually occurred, they will know when they don't have a strong legal case and non-meritorious suits will be unlikely to go forward. This aligns interests the way they should be aligned -- to open disclosure, appropriate compensation, enhanced patient safety, and better quality medical care.

Think we'll read about it in the New York Times?

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