Monday, November 07, 2005

Doctors for Medical Liability Reform

As many physician bloggers will attest, there is a real struggle going on for the hearts and minds of Americans being waged over the issue of medical lawsuits. Up until the past few years, this fight was being engaged publicly primarily by trial lawyers. I certainly do not need to educate readers of this blog about my feelings regarding lawsuit abuse, "CYA" defensive medicine, the inequities involved in the current medical malpractice legal climate, etc. Let's just say that I'm not on the attorney's side here.

So, I was very excited when I received an e-mail about two months ago announcing the "Protect Patients Now" effort:

Protect Patients Now is a project of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR), a coalition of 230,000 practicing medical specialists who are committed to protecting patients' access to healthcare by supporting federal legislation that will reform our nation's broken medical liability system.
The e-mail came from Tom Russell, M.D., the executive director of the American College of Surgeons; the chairman of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform is Stuart L. Weinstein, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Iowa. I think the DMLR site is worth a visit for those wishing to see an admittedly one-sided view of this issue.

In my mind, this type of organized effort is welcome, albeit a bit tardy. Unfortunately, it also appears to be a little amateurish; the animations, which can be seen with IE but not Firefox, succeed only in demonizing trial lawyers. As much as some might feel that's appropriate, what is really needed is education, so that the public understands the personal costs of our current liability system. Actually, a coordinated effort that extends across multiple types of businesses would be the ultimate solution, with TV and radio ads expressing how children can no longer use certain types of playground equipment, why the ED physician orders a chest CT when his suspicion for a pulmonary embolus is essentially zero, why Starbucks has to have a written warning on each of its cups stating "Warning: the beverage you are about to consume is extremely hot," why there are so few vaccine manufacturers left in the US, why (you fill in the blank).....

Nobody is perfect 100% of the time, whether that person is a physician, policeman, butcher, or even attorney. Americans need to move beyond the "culture of blame," or we will continue to cannibalize our society. So, even with its shortcomings, I give a thumbs up to the DMLR freshman effort.