Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Yesterday's New York Times featured a story on trial lawyers' advertising attempts to avoid massive tort reform in the midst of the debate over health care. The debate has a familiar tone to it. Here's an excerpt:
The trial lawyers argue in the ads that patients need legal recourse because preventable medical errors are the sixth-leading cause of death in America, killing at least 98,000 people a year. (The ads’ tag line is: “Tell Congress to Put Patients First. There Are 98,000 Reasons Why You Should.”) The campaign Web site, 98000reasons.org, calls that number equivalent to two 737s crashing every day for a year — and the ads include two small images of planes.
The figure comes from a 1999 report called “To Err Is Human,” from the federal Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences. This is the most recent nationwide figure, said Mr. Tarricone, who added that the number of deaths and injuries could be higher because the “problem has only gotten worse.”
Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, say litigation creates cost beyond settlements and awards and the malpractice insurance to cover them. They say it also encourages doctors to practice “defensive medicine” — practices like ordering more tests than needed in order to avoid being called negligent. But the lawsuits are the flashpoint.
“The threat of these ‘jackpot justice’ suits against doctors is one of the reasons health insurance premiums are rising faster than the rate of inflation,” said Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona.