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Patient Safety Can Lower Health Costs


As a trial lawyer who represents victims of medical malpractice, I appreciate and respect Dr. Ira Jacobson’s long career and service to the community. But noticeably absent from his Jan. 4 letter, “Healthcare fixes can rein in high costs,” is any mention of increasing patient safety.

The most recent study from Johns Hopkins finds that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 250,000 deaths per year, right behind heart disease and cancer.

Defensive medicine? How about safe medicine? This community should expect and deserves safe medicine.

Dr. Jacobson blames “greedy” attorneys and “frivolous” medical-malpractice lawsuits for the high cost of healthcare despite evidence refuting this argument. Doctors in Florida, and most other states, have always received special interest protections from legislatures, including laws that not only make malpractice lawsuits extremely onerous and expensive for victims and their survivors, but also that limit the damages recovered. Moreover, the medical profession’s other go-to bogeyman — the alleged “medical malpractice crisis” — was recently found by the Florida Supreme Court to be unsupported by any evidence.

Everyone agrees that healthcare costs are out of control, but the focus should be primarily on increasing patient safety by looking at the system failures and making sure there are better practices in hiring qualified doctors, and training and supervising.

The answer to reining in healthcare costs should is not to take away rights and remedies from the people in this community. A jury of peers from the community should decide whether a doctor violated the patient safety rules if a doctor’s actions resulted in a patient’s injury or death. The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial. Why should doctors get special treatment? No other profession does.

(Originally published as an editorial in the Miami Herald.)

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