Tort Reform or Patient Safety?

The Huffington Post published an insightful piece today on the real nature of tort reform. In the midst of the federal budget wrangling, some lawmakers believe that tort reform a.k.a. preventing citizens from access to the civil justice system, is the panacea for our nation’s budget ills. Yet, tort reform and their advocates don’t address the real issue with healthcare in this country. Too many medical errors are committed each and every year. These errors are often preventable but increase healthcare costs as well as injure and kill thousands of patients each year. In the Huff Post article, Pearl Korn writes, “250,000 Americans die each year due to those errors, and close to 900,000 deaths in total per year come as the result of unnecessary surgery, hospital-acquired infections, adverse drug reactions, medical errors, even bedsores. From adverse drug reactions and medical malpractice alone, the number of deaths was 420,000 in 1997, as reported by Dr. Lucien Leape of Harvard. If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. The pain and suffering is enormous, and so is the financial cost. It would be reasonable to assume that at least $200 billion or more per year is added onto our national healthcare costs as a result of these errors, and we can anticipate these numbers will continue to rise yearly unless there is intervention and some serious changes begin to take place. Safety must become the major priority, instead of profits. A priority shift is imperative.”
It’s time our lawmakers take these numbers into consideration before they push more tort reform, which hasn’t worked in three decades to control costs or improve healthcare.