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Opinion: Medical crisis is about medical errors, not lawsuit threats

Bob DeRose is the President-elect of the Ohio Association for Justice, an organization with a stated goal to "protect access to the civil justice system" for all people.

DeRose is flatly offended by and doesn't mince words concerning the so-called practice of "defensive medicine" that many doctors say they employ to insulate themselves against claims of medical malpractice.

In an opinion piece he wrote recently for a newspaper, DeRose argues that the emphasis in the malpractice realm is illogical and precisely backward: Why is there so much stress on limiting lawsuits and physicians' liability, he asks, instead of on directly confronting and reducing the egregiously high number of medical errors that are confirmed as routinely occurring?

The crisis in medicine, DeRose states, is not with good doctors trying to shield themselves from aggressive malpractice attorneys. Rather, it centrally resides in the sheer number of medical mistakes that are occurring across the country, coupled with strong efforts to thwart harmed persons from seeking justice through the courts at all.

As we have noted in past posts, and as DeRose mentions, the statistics concerning medical harm are most dire. It takes a stark image to accurately convey the nearly 100,000 people that the Institute of Medicine estimates die annually in U.S. hospitals from medical errors: the dead resulting from two fully loaded 737 jumbo jets crashing every day for an entire year.

The focus needs to shift dramatically, says DeRose, from physicians' attempts to limit lawsuits to reducing "the staggeringly high rate of medical errors."

Source: Columbus Dispatch, "Stop the medical errors, and you stop the lawsuits," Bob DeRose, March 3, 2012

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