The arrogance of some medical professionals never ceases to amaze me. The manner in which they interact and treat patients is for some professionals a exhibit of their attitude that I know everything and do not have to explain anything to these people. The attitude that I provide a service and that is and of itself is sufficient. The attitude that I am above it all.
Wrong: Patients are entitled to whatever information they wish. Patients are entitled to explanations and they are all, rich, poor, powerful and weak entitled to the appropriate care and information. If they don’t receive what should be given we as attorneys are there to give them assistance.
In a recent article about the effects of tort reform which have hindered lawyers in many states were explored. Tort reform did not increase the number of physicians in a given state, tort reform did not increase the quality of care but rather allowed those physicians who could not survive in states without tort reform to hide and continue to practice. In other words those states with tort reform collected the bad doctors fleeing from other states and allowed them to continue to work. I am glad that we practice in New York and New Jersey where there is no tort reform that deprives our clients of their rights.
Tort reform allows the physician with the poor attitude to practice and continue what I would call abuse of patients. That does not mean that every problem merits a malpractice suit, far from that, but any complaint can be evaluated.
I was President of our state trial lawyers association at the time when a Republican Governor combined with a Republican led Senate and Assembly saw the introduction of 13 tort reform bills that would have devastated our ability to represent injured patients. Fortunately for our clients the leaders in the Senate and Assembly were very intelligent individuals. While initially they were proponents of the tort reform legislation, they had open minds and were willing to listen to each side and their respective arguments.
I spent hours preparing for the meetings with these leaders. We reviewed the history of tort reform attempts and the results on patient care and health care. We reviewed methods of improving health care and preventing patient injury. One of our most telling arguments arose when we asked the rhetorical question: “Why does a patient go to see an attorney after seeing a physician?”
The answer: “Because the doctor has (a) done something wrong, (b) that the doctor will not speak to them or answer their questions, (c) treated them in a miserable fashion.
The patient only goes to see an attorney when the doctor fails. We then pointed out to the legislators that if you enact tort reform legislation you are rewarding bad behavior. We pointed out that if you enact the legislation every bad habit, every error would be reinforced and protected. They listened.
They then asked the question about the performance of tests that are done solely because they are afraid of malpractice litigation. Unnecessary tests and the expense to insurers and the patients should not occur. We agreed.
Then we pointed out that the issue of unnecessary testing has been discussed for decades. Time and time again medical societies raising this issue have been asked for research proving that this occurs and the medical societies or medical schools have never done this research. There is no documented proof that this occurs. I was able to show from our case files that when a doctor orders a test that is felt to be not necessary they often do not bother to look at the results. Sometimes those tests should have been ordered and the results should have been reviewed as the results showed a problem which was then ignored.
The end result was a legal action against the doctor which resulted in a successful win for the plaintiff.
Hard work, providing accurate and intelligent information to intelligent individuals allowed us to defeat every single one of the tort reform bills. Our clients were then protected on multiple fronts.
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