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Wilmington, North Carolina

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Gary Shipman
Gary Shipman
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"Facts are Stubborn Things" – Medical Malpractice Reform Won't Reduce Health Care Costs

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It was December, 1770. John Adams was involved in the unpopular defense of soldiers charged with crimes in the famed "Boston Massacre", and argued: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Adam’s words ring ever so true when we hear the cry from the uninformed that along with health care reform, there should be medical malpractice reform. Such statements ignore the facts, and can’t alter the evidence – rising health care costs and medical malpractice litigation have nothing to do with one another.

Here are the facts. Malpractice lawsuits around the United States have steadily declined since 2003, and amount to a tiny percentage of the number of lawsuits that are filed each year. The number of doctors continues to increase (according to the AMA’s own data), and the rate of growth in the physician population continues to outpace the growth in total population. For instance, in North Carolina, between 1998 and 2007, the total population in the State grew by 16.3%, while the physician population increased by 25%. The notion that "defensive medicine" is associated with the cause of escalating health care costs is belied by an independent report in 2004 from the Congressional Budget Office, entitled "Limiting Tort Liability for Medical Malpractice", which concluded that "malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of [health care] spending" and that "savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small." Congress’ own Office of Technology Assessment concluded that most physicians who "order aggressive diagnostic procedures…do so primarily because they believe that such procedures are medically indicated, not primarily because of concerns about liability." More than 98,000 people die each year because of medical mistakes, and obviously, only a small percentage of those deaths result in litigation against those responsible.

So, what will further restrictions on access to the courts do? It will reduce, not increase, accountability. It will further victimize those who are already victimized. It will make , therefore, matters worse, and not better.

Deal with the facts, not fiction.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    What a great site, it is amazing to see a family that suffered such a tragic lost, do this sort of farsighted thing. Hopefully, those who could be potential defendants pay attention and prevent future deaths. We had a drain tragedy here in Minnesota that changed the law. These kind of things shouldn’t happen.

  2. Jane Akre says:
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    Thank you Gary-

    Sometimes I wonder if Americans today were asked to approve our Constitution or Bill of Rights, would they? Would that free speech thing sound a bit radical? How about the right to take a grievance to court? Freedom of religion? Think who it might invite to worship?

    Would we get into partisan bickering over the foundation of our country? I think I know the answer…