My stepfather was a personal injury attorney. I remember conversations over the dinner table (or, just as often, the brunch table) about his cases. The cases were often gruesome. They involved the kind of things that never should be allowed to happen. Sponges left in patients who later died. Once, a scalpel left in a patient. One case involved a hapless soul who fell down an open elevator shaft.
This is why I get nervous whenever Republicans accuse Democrats of being in the pocket of the trial lawyers. This is why I get nervous when people talk about tort reform. Lawyers — including tort lawyers — play an essential role in our society and our economy. There must be a financial incentive to not leave an elevator shaft open. There must be a financial incentive not to leave a scalpel in a patient.
Unfortunately I also believe that medical torts are a leading cause of the out of control cost of healthcare. A compromise must be reached. But let’s avoid a compromise that allows doctors to make terrible mistakes without consequences.
I would actually say that this number is lower than expected. Here’s a perfect tool to save lives– the surgical checklist. Created by one of my mentors at Hopkins, Peter Provonost, it could reduce death by 40% every year…so what happened when Atul Gawande tried to implement it?
He met “significant resistance” to the idea from surgeons, he said. About half said it made sense, 30% were unenthusiastic but complied and 20% said they thought it was a waste of time. Some refused to use it.
This is because no entity in healthcare in America is responsible for the totality of an entire population’s health. All of the main players in healthcare are not part of a team…they are individual silos with politics and egos so ingrained at the individual level. So watch this video to know exactly what common sense is up against.