Honesty Is The Best Tort Reform
August 18, 2010
I have heard so many plaintiffs whose first issue with the doctor’s negligence is that he or she did not apologize or owned up to the error and/or did not take responsibility for the error that caused additional injury to them when under the care of their doctor or hospital. On many occasions a simple apology or taking of responsibility will restore faith and respect towards the doctor who knows about the malpractice or error he has committed. It is good to see that objective and convincing evidence provides for an alternative to reduce healthcare costs and expenses.
Nine years after it began disclosing medical errors to patients and offering to compensate them, the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) has seen its rate of malpractice litigation and total liability costs drop dramatically, according to a study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The UMHS exercise in transparency is just the sort of tort reform that President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have pushed to spare both physicians and patients long, painful slogs through the court system. The new healthcare reform law authorizes the US Department of Health and Human Services to give states 5-year grants to test alternatives to malpractice litigation that encourage disclosure of medical errors, prompt and fair resolution of disputes, and overall improvement of patient safety. The Department of Health and Human Services can begin awarding the grants next year.
The so-called disclosure-and-offer program at UHMS is not unique. Other healthcare organizations such as the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, the Lexington (Kentucky) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and a hospital system called Catholic Healthcare West have also taken to revealing medical errors, apologizing, and offering compensation when appropriate. To some experts, such policies represent a second generation of tort reform that tries to bypass the judicial system, as opposed to refashioning it with the likes of caps on noneconomic damages.