There is little question that government interest in medical error is economic rather than benevolent for even the legislative language of medical malpractice speaks, not to the injuries caused to the patient, but to the government’s budget. When the New Jersey Legislature enacted “The Patients First Act,” ironically, it spoke not to the rights of the patients, but to medical malpractice insurance. “The State’s healthcare system and its residents’ access to healthcare providers are threatened by a dramatic escalation in medical malpractice liability insurance premiums, which is creating a crisis of affordability in the purchase of necessary liability for our healthcare providers. . .” 1
Apparently the New Jersey Legislature found the appropriate response to escalating premiums was not to prevent harm but to reform tort liability. The Legislature took the position that tort reform ensures “that healthcare services continue to be available and accessible to residents of the State and to enhance patient safety at healthcare facilities.” 2
New Jersey is not alone in passage of tort reform legislation, which responds to patients suffering medical harm by increasing the burden on plaintiffs’ bar, thereby protecting physicians from suit. While obvious financial self-preservation motivates much of the tort reform rhetoric instigated by healthcare providers and insurers, patient advocates who sometimes speak the language of tort reform may be motivated by other self-interests.
With a myopia driven by the personal pain of the patient, or the patient’s family members, patient advocates lobby for reforms which will promote emotional healing. Advocates may attempt to teach physicians to feign sympathy in exchange for release-exacted transparency by assuaging their hearts. Transparency rarely requires additional quid pro quo. In such scenarios medical error may be admitted and specious regrets conveyed, but no commitment to prevent further occurrence of the medical error results. See how a medical malpractice suit can make a difference at http://t8mzr.th8.us
What do you think? Is the government really interested in saving lives?
1. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-38(b).
2. 13. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-38(f).
Taken from “Preventing Healthcare-Acquired Conditions Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Carol Ann Armenti, MA, JD in Patricia Iyer and Barbara Levin, (Editors), Medical Legal Aspects of Medical Records, Second Edition, 2010. See our webstore for ordering information.