Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Stats Poke (Another) Hole in Tort Reform

Medical malpractice lawsuits are the talk of Washington, again, as President Obama seeks to reassure Republican lawmakers that he is willing to listen to them and consider their recommendations for fixing healthcare. For most of these Republican Senators and House Representatives, there is but one solution to our nation’s woes and that is tort reform.

Even though analysts and experts have shown time and time again that medical malpractice lawsuits make up but a small amount of our country’s healthcare bill – these lawmakers are intent on limiting patient recourse following a preventable, medical mistakes.

What kind of injuries are we talking about?

How about Martin Harnett? Martin passed away this year – 14 years after the doctor present at his delivery ignored signs of distress, leaving him with cerebral palsy and in need of care, 24/7.

What about Marcus Murray, who went to the hospital with an aortic tear, following a heart attack? Marcus suffered severe and permanent damage after he was refused treatment at a Pennsylvania hospital because he did not have insurance. He too will now require care around the clock, for the rest of his life.

Still, some lawmakers persist in making medical malpractice the great crusade of healthcare reform. They point to it when they need something to blame for the rising costs of healthcare and the increasing number of Americans who cannot afford it. By this logic, one would assume that, as healthcare costs have increased, so have medical malpractice lawsuits – right?

This just isn’t true.

In a recent article, David Wenner, of The Patriot-News, points out that Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits have actually decreased – nearly 40 percent between 2000 and 2008. As for those cases that were brought to trial, a mere 20 percent resulted in patient victories. Even with this decrease, health care costs have continued to rise.

These results aren’t limited to Pennsylvania. Even in states like California, where tort reform has already been enacted, many citizens have been left without healthcare as costs continue to rise. Still, lawmakers supporting tort reform like to point a finger at lawyers and say that “frivolous lawsuits,” are keeping healthcare from more Americans.

The truth?

These lawsuits are making sure that someone’s son, daughter, mother or father is getting the care they need because of a mistake that left them exposed and helpless. These lawsuits make sure that there are consequences for major medical mistakes, so that some other family will not have to suffer the same pain.

Tort reform may be worth considering, but it is not an end-all solution to America’s healthcare problems and, to claim that it is, is to ignore the truth.

Below is a great video featuring Senator Richard Durbin, during a bipartisan healthcare debate.

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