Just this morning, there have been two contrasting perspectives on what’s wrong with the healthcare system in the United States. Interestingly, both viewpoints are offered by physicians who view the problem from very different points of view. One such perspective was offered in Forbes and authored by Robert Glatter, MD. Dr. Glatter titled his piece, “Medical Malpractice: Broken Beyond Repair?” Glatter opines that physicians spend a great deal of time in courtrooms responding to medical malpractice claims. He buttresses his opinion with research conducted by Dr. Richard Anderson, CEO of The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest malpractice insurer. Anderson is not surprisingly sympathetic with the plight of doctors. Anderson concludes that “the average physician in the US, in every specialty, spends a significant portion of his or her career in court, defending claims of medical malpractice, the vast majority of which are found to be at best fruitless, at worst frivolous. “ It’s interesting to note he makes very little mention of patient safety or the prevalence of medical errors which are supported by independent data. The second article is written by an author who refers to himself as a “physician and an executive in the healthcare industry”. The piece, published by Fox News, takes the perspective of a patient, in this case, the author’s own father who underwent cataract surgery. While the author was careful to note on several occasions that the intention isn’t to pass judgment on colleagues, the author does list a number of medical mistakes such as improperly filled prescriptions, healthcare workers neglecting basic hygiene such as hand washing prior to surgery, and failure to have the proper consent forms signed. The physician concludes, “During the entire encounter, from the time my father was diagnosed with a cataract, to the time he had surgery, I observed at least 10 different mistakes, which clearly cost the system more money and could have resulted in an outcome that was less than desirable.”
In my opinion, the first article published in Forbes comes off as defensive rather than proactive in determining the real crisis in healthcare. The second article, on the other hand, is given from the perspective of the patient’s family and their experience with healthcare. Defensive posturing in order to protect doctors doesn’t solve the real issue of medical errors. When discussing medical malpractice, it would be helpful to stick to facts and real solutions.
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