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Medical Malpractice and Insurance

October 06, 1985

Re "Study Questions Emphasis in Medical Malpractice" by Allan Parachini, Sept. 20: To isolate medical malpractice from the universe of malpractice that may be provided by the rest of the world other than medical practitioners is to ignore the ubiquitous liability insurance crisis to which all are exposed because of civil tort law as it now exists.

Witness the recent near inability for the RTD to be insured. Witness the recently reportedly inability for child care facilities to be insured. Observe the number of municipalities and other political entities, such as counties and states that have either been bankrupted or nearly so because of liability suits.

To say that people's lives are more at stake when under medical care than at other times flies in the face of logic. A person's life is at stake when a police officer's bullet flies through the air. How many lives are at stake when an airplane soars through the sky? How many lives are lost when a hotel walkway collapsed secondary either to engineering or architectural malpractice or materials not up to specifications? In other words, physicians do not have a priority in having people's lives in their hands.

Furthermore, to suggest as reported in your story that medical malpractice suits are a mechanism to punish physicians, or to weed out the incompetent physicians or to raise the standards of medical care is predicated on the postulate that incompetency, poor results, injuries, or negligence are tautological with being sued for malpractice, which just is not so.

Medical malpractice insurance is a mechanism whereby the person injured as a result of negligent medical care is compensated for economic losses or their equivalency such as established, for instance, by disability and life insurance, which determines the worth of a limb, an eye or a life.

Now, the standard of care at a university is not necessarily the standard of care in a community and the standard of care in a large metropolitan area is not necessarily the standard of care in a rural area.

Furthermore, injury or bad results alone are not necessarily the result of medical malpractice, although often they are so judged so that the victim may be compensated in the face of no other remedy for compensation.

What tort reform has attempted to do is to achieve fairness for the victim while decreasing the lawyers' greed. Lawyers are the ones opposed to periodic payments, schedules of compensation based on injury and injury severity, no punitive damages, caps on percentage of awards paid to lawyers, realizing the plaintiff only receives about a third of dollars spent and only wins in about 2% to 3% of claims made, with nearly half of claims dropped.

SYLVAIN FRIBOURG MD

Woodland Hills

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