Does PA’s Decline In Medical Malpractice Suits Confirm The Need For Tort Reform?

Short answer- absolutely not. Although supporters of tort reform are rallying behind recent reports that medical malpractice suits in Pennsylvania have declined after the implementation of stricter court requirements to weed out frivolous lawsuits, it seems to me that the actual cases of medical malpractice are still shockingly high.

Apparently the number of malpractice suits filed in Pennsylvania fell to 1,617, which is a 4.5 percent decline from 2006. The reason for this decline, according to Chief Justice Ronald D Castille, are stricter court guidelines which require lawyers to have an independent physician or expert verify the credibility of a case before a suit is filed.

OK- so the frivolous lawsuits have been weeded out. But how can you discredit the 1,617 medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania that did have merit in the eyes of the court? These are people who have been injured, disfigured and even died as a result of a medical mistake. Most victims do not make a full recovery and are often unable to work or unable to provide for their families.

Lets expand these numbers to include medical malpractice suits on a national level. A recent analysis of Medicare patients between 2004-2006 showed that preventable medical mistakes caused 238,337 wrongful deaths, 1.1 million unnecessary injuries and cost Medicare $8.8 billion dollars. The most common mistakes involved bedsores, accidental punctures or lacerations, anesthesia complications, sepsis, infections and surgical mistakes resulting from instruments and foreign objects left in the body. Furthermore, the same report claims that if the doctors involved followed the same prevention steps and procedures required by top-rated hospitals, 37,214 wrongful deaths from medical malpractice would have been avoided.

So lets compare apples for apples and then decide what”s fair. If we allow tort reform, a doctor who makes a fortune already will save some money on his malpractice insurance. On the other hand, a mother of three who was permanently injured after the doctor made a careless mistake can not recover enough money to support her family and live off of should she be unable to work. Forget the lawyers involved. These are real people with real injuries that could have been prevented. If someone slips on your icy sidewalk and gets hurt, your gonna have a lawsuit on your hand because you made the mistake of not shoveling. That”s life. Why shouldn”t doctors be held to the same standard?

I don”t believe this study confirms the need for tort reform-in fact I believe it shows the exact opposite. If stricter rules were implemented and there were still1,617 people who had viable medical malpractice suits, then the problem lies in the medical field. Its time to stop punishing the victims because the filthy rich hospitals and doctors do not want to pay when mistakes happen. What”s fair is to weed out the bad doctors who hurt people. The medical malpractice lawsuits will then naturally drop off without the help of tort reform or the politics behind it.

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