Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem in our health care system. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, diagnoses that are wrong, missed or delayed affect 10 to 20 percent of all medical cases. That’s a higher rate than drug errors or wrong-site surgeries, which get more attention. Despite continuing efforts to reduce medical errors, the problem doesn’t seem to be improving. Part of the reason is that some doctors do not know when they “got it wrong.” Some patients will seek a second opinion and unless the mistake results in a lawsuit, the original doctor may never know, especially if the discovery is delayed. Another reason is tort reform. Rather than focusing on patient safety and preventing future negligence, it focuses on stripping away patient rights to a trial by jury. When no one is held accountable, no one is safe.
The largest deterrent to medical negligence is the threat of a lawsuit. While litigation holds the healthcare industry accountable, it is also a reminder that the medical profession can’t hide behind their mistakes. Calls for medical malpractice reform have been misguiding citizens. Enacting damage caps on medical negligent litigation penalizes the unfortunate patient and provides a free pass to the negligent healthcare professionals and their insurance companies. When this happens, insurance companies get a financial windfall and the public sector, in the form of increased taxes for assuming the burden of the wrongdoers, take the financial hit. Removing accountability and restricting access to justice does nothing to improve safety; softening the penalty won’t prevent the crime. We must focus on fixing the problems rather than bargaining away the rights of patients who are injured, maimed or killed by health care providers.
It stands to reason that there will be fewer injuries and fewer lawsuits if there are sufficient safety measures in place, but even then, lawsuits are only a symptom of the disease. What are “tort reformers” doing to improve safety? What are they doing to improve quality care? What are they doing to save lives?
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.