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Patient Safety Needs to Be Remembered in Debt Debate

Federal lawmakers continue to work on various proposals related to the federal deficit and current disagreements about raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The debt issue has wide-ranging ramifications for so many areas, including the quality of healthcare throughout the country. An Illinois medical malpractice attorney knows that tens of thousands of area patients are harmed each year because of mistakes made by their physicians that should have been prevented. Preventing these Illinois medical errors-and the subsequent corrective medical care-presents the opportunity to reduce overall medical costs by tens of billions of dollars.

Healthcare costs constitute a large portion of our nation’s annual budget. All legislative proposals and discussions aimed at reducing strains on the budget must include strategies to rein in unnecessary medical spending. Unfortunately, some big businesses and insurance companies have used the opportunity to try to slide in so-called “medical malpractice reform.” As has been exhaustively detailed, this “reform” is nothing more than an attempt to take away the rights of injured victims of medical errors.

Late last week Congressman Bruce Braley sent a letter to the Senate Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary urging him to reject the misguided “tort reform” efforts. Instead, Congressman Braley urged the influential Senate leader to remember that the single most effective way to reduce medical costs it to reduce medical errors.

The letter explains how costs associated with medical negligence claims only account for 1.36% of all healthcare spending. Conversely, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that as many 98,000 Americans are killed each and every year because of preventable medical errors. If it were included in the Centers for Disease Control figures, preventable medical errors would be the sixth leading cause of death in the country. Overall, there are 15 million incidents of medical harm every year.

The IOM has found that between $17 billion and $39 billion is spent annually because of those errors. Over ten years, therefore, these errors account for upwards of $300 billion in spending and several hundred thousand lives. With those stark numbers, it is shocking that more attention is not being paid to efforts that seek to strengthen patient safety. Instead, “tort reform’ measures are being pursued which would actually weaken one of the few patient safety tools currently available-the civil justice system.

Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers are committed to fighting all efforts that take away rights of injured victims. The civil justice system has shown time and again that it is an important way to encourage better patient safety measures. Big businesses and insurance companies may have money and lobbyists on their side, but they do not have facts. There is no reason why innocent victims should have basic legal rights stripped from them because those who played a role in causing their injury do not want to pay for the consequences of their actions.

We encourage all patient rights’ advocates to contact their local, state, and federal lawmakers and encourage them to stand for victim’s rights. The current debt crisis cannot be used as an opportunity for big interests to push through misguided “tort reform” proposals.

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