Medical Malpractice Awards Drop To All-Time Low


Posted on 9th August 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Maybe this new report will end all the hooting and hollering in D.C. about medical malpractice driving up the cost of health care. But somehow I doubt it.

Medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors were at their lowest level on record in 2012, according to a report just released by Public Citizen, an advocacy group.

In the report, “No Correlation: Continued Decrease in Medical Malpractice Payments Debunks Theory That Litigation Is to Blame for Soaring Medical Costs,” Public Citizen analyzed data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which has tracked malpractice payments since the fall of 1990.

“We now have a decade’s worth of data debunking the litigation canard,” Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and the report’s author, said in a statement. “Policymakers need to focus on reducing medical errors, not reducing accountability for medical errors.”

The report found that in 2012:

– The number of malpractice payments on behalf of doctors (9,379) was the lowest on record, falling for the ninth consecutive year;

– The value of payments made on behalf of doctors ($3.1 billion) was the lowest on record if adjusted for inflation. In unadjusted dollars, payments fell for the ninth straight year and were at their lowest level since 1998;

– More than four-fifths of medical malpractice awards compensated for death, catastrophic harm or serious permanent injuries – countering the claim that medical malpractice litigation is “frivolous”;

– Medical malpractice payments’ share of the nation’s health care bill was the lowest on record, falling to about one-tenth of 1 percent (0.11 percent) of national health care costs;

– Medical liability insurance premiums, a broad measure that takes into account defense litigation costs and other factors as well as actual payments, fell to 0.36 of 1 percent of health care costs, the lowest level in the past decade.

The facts surrounding the prevalence of medical malpractice litigation are important for several reasons, the report contends. Medical malpractice has been singled out by many in Congress as the culprit for rising health care costs.

For instance, during the health care reform debate, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio,) called medical malpractice the “biggest cost driver” in medicine. Republicans in Congress have continuously lobbied to pass legislation that would restrict patients’ ability to seek redress in court.

“The facts clearly and obviously refute the contentions put forth by Boehner and others that malpractice litigation significantly influences health care costs,” Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a statement. “Medical malpractice payments continue to fall and health care costs continue to rise. It doesn’t take a math whiz to determine that they are not correlated.”

The new report finds that since 2003, medical malpractice payments have fallen 28.8 percent, yet national health care costs are up 58.2 percent. If health care costs paralleled litigation trends during the past decade, the nation’s health care bill in 2012 would have been $1.3 trillion. Instead, it was $2.8 trillion, according to Public Citizen.

The reduction in litigation is most likely due to state laws that have reduced patients’ legal rights rather than it is to improvements in medical care, the report said. Studies in recent years have found that between 1-in-4 and 1-in-7 hospital patients suffer adverse events, which are defined as undesirable and unanticipated developments that cause death or serious injury.

Hero Pilot Lobbies For Reduction Of Medical Errors


Posted on 6th August 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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If 20 jets were crashing every week, there would be a national uproar, with planes grounded and airports shut. Yet medical errors kill the same equivalent of people, 200,000 each year, and nothing is done.

That is exactly what Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the hero who safely landed a jet on the Hudson River in 2009, told Sullenberger may be retired, but he is still busy. He has mounted a crusade to reduce the number of medical errors in the United States.

According to, Sullenberger is lobbying in Washington and lecturing across the country to bring about changes to cut down on medical mistakes — and save lives. For example, he recently was a featured speaker at the American Hospital Association’s annual summit in San Diego.

One of Sullenberger’s recommendations is that the aviation practice of going through checklists before taking off be applied to medical care and procedures. That makes a lot of sense to me.

The hero pilot is also pressing for more accurate records on medical mistakes and a non-accusatory approach to dealing with them. The idea is to find what led to the error, not crucify the doctors and nurses involved.

Sullenberger is seeking quick change and improvements to patient safety. I hope someone in Washington listens to him.

Ex-Student With Cerebral Palsy Sues L.A. School District


Posted on 3rd August 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A teenager with cerebral palsy and spastic dysplasia is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District for allegedly discriminating against him, by failing to offer him accessible transportation when he attended Carson High School, according to KCBS-TV.

The lawsuit was filed by Edward Martinez, 18, under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Martinez, who is wheelchair-bound, claims that he was repeatedly left at the curb while teachers and other students traveled on an disabled-inaccessible bus to activities such as baseball games, field trips and Grad Night at Disneyland, KCBS-TV reported.

The youth said he was so frustrated by always being left behind that he had teachers and students take him out of his wheelchair and carry him on and off the bus for the Disneyland Grad trip, an experience he described as “humiliating.”

Martinez also alleges that he was forced to stay in the high school library while his math class met for two weeks in an upstairs room, according to KCBS-TV.

Martinez previously sued the school district on a disability issue, but that case was settled. But KCBS-TV said that under that settlement, the district agreed to train staff and get vehicles that capable of transporting the disabled.

It doesn’t seem like that worked out too well.