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The President Misses the Mark on Medical Malpractice

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If you are a victim of medical malpractice in Ohio, you have your back up against the wall and if President Bush has his way that’s exactly where you will stay. Last night during his annual State of the Union address, President Bush said, “[T]o protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we need to pass medical liability reform.” In a continuation of a theme repeated throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has once again gone back to the well to blame law suits and lawyers for the country’s problems and then gone on to imply that being able to hold wrongdoers accountable is a bad idea, particularly when they are wealthy and powerful.

In last year’s State of the Union, President Bush promoted this policy of limiting patients’ legal rights by suggesting that access to ob-gyn care is threatened – a cynical attempt at frightening women and families.

Sadly, at least in Ohio, his efforts have worked.

Beginning in 2004 Ohioans have had their rights slowly stripped away. Sweeping legislation capping recoveries to injured victims and restricting how and when a claim could be brought was passed. In essence the legislature shifted the cost of an injured patients injury from the responsible party back on to the malpractice victim and on to taxpayers whose dollars eventually go to care for those who are unable to care for themselves or can no longer earn a wage because of injury resulting from a doctors negligence. So you make the choice….should the taxpayers pay for the negligent acts of doctors and hospitals or the wrongdoer and his insurance company? Should the few bad doctors causing substaintial harm continue to be provided protections by the medical community and the legislators in the pocket of the insurance industry or should injured victims be able to have their day in court to prove and obtain accountability? In short, according to national studies the result of what President Bush has called for and in part achieved has been an increase in the incidence of malpractice and what appears to be a decrease in the accountability of responsible doctors.

In 2006, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health published findings that revealed that “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.” In fact, new research by Public Citizen [ a national non profit public interest organization ] demonstrates that the real crisis in medical malpractice is not one of so-called “junk lawsuits” but one of a serious lack of physician oversight – only six percent of doctors account for more than 58 percent of all malpractice claims. Since 1991, preventable medical errors cause between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year in hospital settings.