Wasting Money with Medical Malpractice

car breaksScenario

Imagine driving down the road, a small animal jumps out in front of your vehicle – you slam on the breaks and narrowly miss the animal. You determine that you should’ve easily missed the animal…but your breaks aren’t working as they should and couldn’t slow the car down as effectively.

You take your vehicle to the nearest repair shop for some replacement breaks. After an hour, the man behind the counter, comes and informs you that it will take an additional 3 hours to finish the diagnostic process.

They will need to check the engine, the alignment, the transmission, the fuel system, and the oil pressure. They must check out all of these before starting your repairs.

You are certain that it is only the breaks that are involved.  But they argue that for “your” safety, they must do an entire system check.

This is somewhat similar to the medical field and the diagnosis process of defensive medicine!!

A few changes between the medical scenario is that, the man behind the counter, isn’t necessarily the medical provider; it is society, lawyers, and insurance companies. While with the vehicle repair shop the owner is “the man behind the counter” and he is the one that pressures you into additional diagnostic tests.


A Medical Visit to the Emergency Room

When a patient arrives at the emergency room – the medical staff is designed and determined to improve the status of the patient. Often tests are required such as X-ray for a broken foot or Blood work, EKG, and much more for a Heart Attack.

Some diagnosis are very difficult and may require a great number of exams, tests, and procedures. Where as others are relatively straight forward.

But external pressure, especially because of unwarranted medical malpractice lawsuits, may push a provider to order tests that are unnecessary or unhelpful in the search for a medical problem and subsequent solution.

A recent analysis by Congress indicated that over $41 billion dollars over the next ten years could be saved if malpractice lawsuit awards and rulings became somewhat more reasonable. This would require tort reform

Typically the taxpayer or hospital is responsible for the changes in budget and over-expenditures whether through increased prices, payments, insurance costs, change in Medicaid, and/or taxes.

Recent research has provided additional evidence that lowering the cost of medical malpractice tends to reduce the use of health care services,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote lawmakers.


Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider deviates from the “standard of care”. A standard is set for the medical staff, the provider, the patient and an extreme change from that standard may, but not always, may be considered for a lawsuit.

The party reporting malpractice must establish 4 aspects of tort law. A duty was owed, a duty was breached, injury occurred, and damages were sustained. Without all 4 aspects – a lawsuit should not be held for trial.

True malpractice that occurs is not being considered as a waste of money. The term malpractice is being enlarged to include situations that malpractice does not involve. The excess amount of settlements and damages are currently believed to be too much.

The relative increasing ease it is to file for malpractice when the 4 aspects of tort law are not being met is driving medical practice to “defensive medicine“. And hurts both medical staff and society.



Defensive Medicine

Some doctors feel obligated to order a MRI costing $1,500 for a patient with back pain that a simple $250 back X-ray would be sufficient because they must cover themselves to prevent an eventual lawsuit for missing a cancerous tumor.

Therefore, defensive medicine covers not only the specific complaint but attempts to cover everything under a “what if” policy and practice.

A cancer patient could have symptoms of fever and chills, but so could the Flu, tooth infection, stomach pains, and many others. A good medical judgment is essential – a need for a test should warrant a test. Fear of a potential lawsuit should not guide medical practice.

Shotgun medicine covers many things – but the cost has been considered as quite expensive.


The Patient’s concerns

How often has an incidental tumor or other finding been observed because of an X-ray of the neck also showed a portion of the lungs or lab work for one concern brought to light another problem.

Patient advocates argue that patient diagnosis will suffer if too large of a cut back is put into place.

Many argue that several malpractice suits are not frivolous and that real harm has been suffered by some patients due to medical malpractice.

Limits on awards may improve medical cost but not always medical outcome.

What if your medical bills and social life were affected because of medical malpractice – yet because of limits to malpractice lawsuits you were unable to pay your bills and return to a functional living. Who would then cover your costs???


The White House

Obama has placed arguments on both sides. He does agree to limiting the overall use of “defensive medicine”. He is also on the side of patient advocates attempting to collect the appropriate compensation to problem.

Obama is currently looking into alternatives to filing a lawsuit or litigation.

Also a pilot plan was discussed last month that may initiate a tort reform. Limiting medical lawsuits has always been close to the heart of many Republicans.

$25 million dollars could be placed to initiate this program.




Although medicine is often more complicated then automobiles, many of us want a solution to the problem when we go to the emergency room

If a car part has a problem we want it fixed. If we have a medical concern – it is beneficial to have it fixed rather than several expensive tests to find a “possible” problem

A better control model for frivolous lawsuits needs to be put into place.

Medical Malpractice occurs and has scary and expensive consequences. No free ride or protection should be in place when a medical provider deliberately causes a problem. When something does go wrong, then appropriate compensation should be put into place.

Lets hope politics doesn’t get in the way of patient care, again!

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