Contrary to lawyer Richard Mitthoffs musings (Malpractice awards questioned, Houston Chronicle, January 2, 2002), there is no such thing as a relatively simple back operation. Like any other surgery, there are simply varying degrees of difficulty and danger for doctor and patient. Granted, victims of negligence should and must be compensated. Yet, when more than eight out of 10 Texas medical malpractice claims result in no payment made to the patient it is evident that many of these charges lack merit. Somewhere our notion of bad outcome and medical negligence became blurred, resulting in an ever-growing number of misdirected malpractice claims.
Our medical liability crisis has little to do with bad investments in the stock market, as Mr. Mitthoff and other personal injury trial lawyers contend.
Today, one in every four Houston-area physicians has a pending malpractice claim against him or her. During the past five years, the claims losses for Harris County neurosurgeons have nearly doubled the amount paid in liability premiums. Claims are being filed against even the best doctors. So getting rid of the bad apple doctors wont, in and of itself, cure the crisis. Many legal observers believe the solution can be found in the State Board of Medical Examiners more aggressively investigating and punishing bad practice, doctors being more careful, and lawmakers passing reasonable liability laws.
The public deserves good medicine, as few medical errors as humanly possible, and a legal system that protects their rights and fairly reimburses their losses. . What the public doesnt need is a self serving misinformation campaign aimed at diverting attention from the core problem fueling our medical liability crisis: high numbers of merit less lawsuits and oversized awards.
Bruce Ehni, M.D.