Patient Safety Should be Primary Concern in Healthcare Reform

As the US House of Representatives prepared to vote on their health reform bill early last month, Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat, took the floor to advocate for patient safety. As he began his floor speech, Rep. Braley was shouted down by some members of the House. He was derided as a “trial lawyer” as he spoke about the dire need to focus on patient safety.

Braley, seen by many of his House colleagues as the leader in patient safety advocacy, remained undeterred by the catcalls. “Who will speak for the patients?” Braley said in his House speech. Referring to an Institute of Medicine report, Braley said “They told us the most significant way to reduce the cost of medical malpractice is to emphasize patient safety by reducing the number of preventable medical errors.”

200,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors. Yet, the issue of patient safety has received scant attention in the debate over healthcare reform. Perhaps, Rep. Braley will lead this important fight.

“When my colleagues chose to attack me by screaming ‘trial lawyer, trial lawyer’ it wasn’t affecting me in the least,” Braley told advocates last week at the Consumers Union conference. “I was thinking of people that need someone to stand up for them when it comes to important issues of patient safety.”

Taunting and name-calling doesn’t serve the interests of the American people who need real reform. As the US Senate debates various healthcare reform measures this month, let’s hope that the focus of the debate centers on the issues not on personal attacks.