Today’s Daily News reports that New York City has paid out “$135 million this year for medical blunders at its public hospitals…”
I read the article and the cases sound really bad. However, I struggle intellectually and viscerally with medical malpractice lawsuits. I am prejudiced: my sister, brother-in-law, a cousin and friends are physicians. I think they’re excellent doctors, just as I love my own doctors.
Yet almost all of them have been sued.
Thus, I could not serve on a medical malpractice jury and, in fact, got off one by offering my opinion my prejudice just before the voir dire. (I have a feeling I poisoned that entire panel; the lawyers did not look happy.)
I think many med mal lawsuits are nonsense; the ones that have validity are usually filed against the wrong people, along with the right ones. It’s a cowboy approach: if your client dies in a hospital, sue every entity and every professional anywhere on the floor or service where the client died. Rope ’em in, force them all to get lawyers and prove themselves not responsible for your client’s death. They are guilty until (expensively) they prove themselves innocent.
Whether or not a physician is found guilty of malpractice, her liability premiums go up. So what physicians probably resent more than anything, beyond lawyers’ cowboy approach, is that the legal system—with very few exceptions, one of which I mentioned here (“Medical malpractice lawsuits: An excellent idea in NYC” Posted on June 15, 2011)—does not have the scientific expertise to judge these cases rationally. Nor, of course, does a jury.
A designed court, peopled with judges of tested experience in such cases, with a preselected advisory panel of genuine experts—specialists in all branches of medicine—should administer medical malpractice lawsuits from beginning to end. And even before the whole panoply of lawyers and defendants gather for court conferences and filings, this court would determine the validity of the causes of action and dismiss any case that fails the test, and all defendants who bear no responsibility.
And any lawyer who cavalierly named a non-responsible defendant should have to pay that physician’s legal costs.
Now, if I can figure out a way to get rid of insurance companies …