Monday, August 18, 2008

Elections 2008: "tort reform" & patient safety are not serious issues

Physicians and surgeons who anticipate that a presidential administration change will bring about "tort reform" and, therefore, decreased malpractice insurance might be disappointed.


In contrast to the desires of the powerful American Medical Association, Democrat presumptive nominee Barack Obama does not favor on caps for pain and suffering.

Before they officially became presidential candidates, the Senator Barack Obama (IL) and Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) co-authored an article in the May 25, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled "Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform." (See:

Obama and Clinton sympathize with physicians over escalating insurance costs and they both condemn the current tort system for creating an "intimidating liability environment." Those points notwithstanding, Clinton and Obama remark that it is more important to focus on how to improve patient safety than "areas of intense disagreement," such as caps on financial awards to patients.

Obama and Clinton introduced legislation, to provide money and assistance to physicians, hospitals, insurers, and health care systems to start programs for disclosure of medical errors and compensation to patients. The bill would have created an office of patient safety and health care quality to establish a database to track incidents of malpractice and fund research into guidelines to prevent future injuries. Obama and Clinton's legislation died in committee in 2006.

The proposed (and currently dead) legislation provided that "[p]hysicians would be given certain protections from liability . . . in order to promote a safe environment for disclosure. . . . This (currently dead) legislation would provide doctors and patients with an opportunity to find solutions outside the courtroom. In return, [hospitals, insurers, and others] would be required to use savings achieved by reducing legal defense costs to reduce liability insurance premiums and to foster patient-safety initiatives.


Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain (AZ) described "tort reform" as a top priority.

Senator John McCain supports caps on awards and expressed some support for a loser-pays rule. Senator McCain remarks that "[w]e cannot let the search for high-quality care be derailed by frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards. McCain further remarks "[l]iability reforms should eliminate lawsuits for doctors [who] follow clinical guidelines and adhere to patient safety protocols."

McCain laments increased costs stemming from defensive medicine. "In every other industry when technological advances are implemented, costs to the consumer decreases," he told supporters in South Carolina. "This is not the case in health care." According to McCain, "[there are a high] number of tests that all of us in this room have taken just so that doctors won't be sued for malpractice."

For complete posting at Medical News:

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