A recent editorial published by CNN delves into a critical issue that perennially lies underneath various policy making proposals at the local, state, and federal levels–the need to protect patient legal rights. Fortunately, we have not heard as much this election cycle about tort reform proposals as we have in the past. But it is critical not to assume this means that the issues are behind us. Not only do we need to fight for the rights of those who live in places where laws already severely limit their right to fair compensation following malpractice, but there are always new threats made by insurance companies and big medical interests to press for more changes.
The CNN editorial, written by the President of the American Association for Justice, points out that tens of thousands of patients are killed each and every year as a result of preventable errors. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) more are hurt unnecessarily as consequence of those mistakes. When taken as a form of injury, medical malpractice is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. The consequences are not only medical–there are very real financial losses. According to the editorial, every year nearly $27 billion is spent unnecessarily because of this negligence.
All discussion about changing the legal rights for patients and their families must keep those stats in mind. Unfortunately, the discussion often ignores those safety issues. We must keep bringing it up so that the real consequences of medical malpractice are part of the discussion.