Pages

Monday, August 15, 2005

Medical Malpractice

Doctors are protesting their increased insurance rates. They claim that they're being priced out of business. I have a friend who's a medical doctor and I disagree. Oh sure, it's harder to make sky-high salaries because insurance eats away at them, but they're still pretty comfortable compared to many others with college degrees.

I also have a friend who is a high powered attorney (picture a young Maria Shriver before she began to look like a space alien). I saw her through a pregnancy not too long ago (she now has a happy, healthy baby). Late in the pregnancy she suffered from pre-eclampsia. Getting very dizzy, she pulled over to the side of the road and blacked out momentarily. Coming to, she called her doctor's office and was told to drive to the nearest place to get her blood pressure taken, call back, and leave the results with the answering service. Confused (she was in no shape to reason anything out mentally), she did it without protest. The problem is, as she pointed out later, that if something had happened to her as she was driving the doctor would have been liable - and rightly so! She was also rather concerned that she hadn't been asked to call the doctor and give him the results, she was only to leave it with the answering service.

The funny thing is, she was never called back. That led her to believe it wasn't pre-eclampsia (which is what she had suspected it might be). However, a week later, she found that she did indeed have it.

Although my friend is an attorney, she's not lawsuit-happy. And she and the baby turned out fine. But if it had turned out differently, the doctor would be in hot water.

I could tell you other medical horror stories that I know of personally, and they're significant. And they wonder why medical malpractice is going through the roof?

Let's face it, the doctor who is initially screening you may have got a 'C' in the area that he is trying to diagnose.

18 comments:

mal said...

There is no argument that we are a lititgous society or that there are people out there who perpetrate frauds thru the courts (wendy chili finger case) The truth is that limiting liability exposure is NOT the solution to the problem. In my mind it justifies less than the best service to the customer/patient.

Doctors offices are already run to maximize through put with multiple barriers set to prevent the Doctor's routine from being "disrupted". Doctors already had a reputation for Olympian Detachment. The new business models just make it worse. Add limited responsibility? Now we have a worse problem

Jeff said...

Perhaps, and this is the devil's advocate speaking here, but perhaps it may have a little to do with the fact that we continually lower the admission standards for colleges and the like so that it is more and more fairer for folks of all walks of life to have a chance at being a doctor. I've felt for some time that this is causing more problems for all of us as a whole than it's fixing for certain groups. My experience in the navy is a fine example of this. If you are not familiar with the nuclear program in the navy, it was at one point considered the second most difficult educational program in the U.S. behind only harvard law. When I joined, that very high standard was still very much in place and the school was meant to weed out all but the very best. Along with that came a failure/dropout rate of about 75%. In the ten years I served, the military was drastically cut back and cut back and cut back until one day someone said, "SHIT! we cut back waaaaayyyyyyy too far and need people now." When I first got to my first boat, each of the four divisions in the engineering department were full. By the time the cuts were over, my division went from 13 to 6 and that was similar to what all my friends on other boats were suffering through. It sucked big time because it meant 100+ hour work weeks on top of a heavy sea schedule. Then, to make the people start coming in to fill the watch bill, the school's standards were lowered tremendously. It went from a mentality of "get rid of those that can't make it" for the teachers to one directed by the navy's education guru who said to the teachers that if a person fails out, it's not the student's fault but rather it's the instructors fault and that began to take adverse affects on the teacher's military career. Why would a teacher fail a student out that couldn't cut the mustard and meet the programs long and distinguished line of high standards and quality when it was going to hurt his chance at promotion? As these new people came along, their skills were drastically lower, their motivation to be perfect all the time and every time was not there because it was not instilled in school, their work ethic wasn't up to par because they weren't forced to earn their way into the program (I had 45 hours of class a week and a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of study time on top of that per week when I went through and I barely passed. That after getting a 1540 on the SAT so it ain't like I was no idiot.), their attitude was shit at best, and they all felt that someone had to help tham rather than them help everyone else by helping themselves first. What it meant was that the 6 people from the "old school" still ended up doing the work of 13 because the others weren't willing to pull their weight or simply weren't capable of comprehending the sometimes extremely complex work that went with the job. It got so bad that ultimately, that's what drove me out of the navy after ten years. (Maybe that's where alot of my anger stems from, Mrs. Saur? ha ha) It was clear as day there, and I would imagine that the same thing is going to be clear as day in alot of your fields as well. The huge rises in college tuition costs are drawing serious complaints from those that "represent" the poor and they are forcing schools with very high admission standards to lower the bar so that poorer kids who get poorer educations as kids get a chance to get in too. Poor and poor education doesn't make you unable to pass the bar. I know. I was educated in military schools on military bases and am all too familiar with welfare and free lunch at school and that sort of thing yet I have two master's degrees in engineering and EARNED my way through all of it. Even with high standards, I'll admit that there are some moo-rons that slip past, but there are lot's and lot's more when we short sheet ourselve's in the name of equality. I hope my two cents makes sense. Until some other time...

dddragon said...

I know a woman who gave birth to surprise twins. She was SO MAD that her doctor never caught on during the whole pregnancy that she was carrying more than one baby. This was 15 years ago - that's not that long ago that a physician should be caught unawares like that.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I don't have a problem with lawsuits against doctors, but with outrageous penalties, like $20 million for one botched operation. It is the excess judgments I would rail against.

michelle said...

The way I see it malpractice insurance is up for two reasons.

1. Doctors not doing their job.
Doctor take on so many patients because the HMO's pay per contract. This means the doc may get $25.00 for that $75.00 office visit. Now the docs are over worked, have family's, and so on and so on and so on.

2. Patients not doing their job.
The doc tells the patient eat ABC not XYZ. The patient continues to eat XYZ. Now we have obeseity, heart disease, diabetis, high cholesteral. Doc says don't smoke and drink less. Patient smokes two packs instead of one patient drinks the whole bottle instead of a glass.

Sorry guys. I see both sides here. I believe if a doc does a bad job, then he/she must pay both from their pocket and their license. I also believe if a patient goes to the doc to get fixed, then listen and act appropriately.

AP3 said...

I tend to see both sides, too. But I'd rather do away with malpractice and the whole system and have a national healthcare plan.

Fred said...

Dragon: That woman wouldn't happen to be you, right?

I do believe that the pain and suffering portion should be capped. If there's a legitimate need for the money, then give it away. On top of that, cap the rest of the damages.

Senor Caiman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Saur♥Kraut said...

Actually, I see both sides as well. I do think we need to have lawsuit caps, but I also think that doctors have gotten away with too much over the years.

Another example: A close friend of mine who's a scientist has had prostate cancer twice. After the first time, he kept a chart on his PSA levels (they are levels in the blood that indicate cancer). One day he told his doctor that the cancer had returned. The doctor said not to worry, his levels were normal. My scientist friend said that, normal or not, the rates were rising and it was time to run other tests. The doctor said fine, he'd humor my friend. My friend was right, and so was able to beat the cancer a second time as well...

Tabasamu said...

I have always felt that the medical profession is somewhat substandard. It seems they're too busy referring people to specialists, so they have no personal accountability anymore. I understand it's to avoid the malpractice suits, but I think it's also encouraged a mental laziness in the medical profession.

mal said...

Saur, you make a good point that we have to be actively involved in our care and that includes being knowledgeable on our own issues. I started keeping copies of all my lab work. It annoys my doctor because he only looks at it just before my appointment and my file is THICK. He does not like being caught up on pointed questions regarding my lipid profiles, hormone levels and glucose levels.

Whether we buy cars or medical services, it always pays to be informed

The Lazy Iguana said...

How about this - we have lawsuit caps BUT if a doctor cuts off the wrong foot, then that doctor also looses a foot.

By the way, the foot thing happened in Floirda. Someone had gangrene in their foot, and the doctor removed the wrong one. Now if anyone, even Spuds McKenzie, can tell if something is rotting or not - but the doctor can not, then that person does not need to be a doctor.

And 20 million for a botched operation might seem excessive to you, until it happens to you. Then it will seem reasonable.

Jeff said...

I have to admit, losing a foot wouldn't be so bad for that sort of payday. Any doctors got a knife?

The movie Malice is a great movie if you've never seen it and it sort of falls in line with that, but you need to see it bacause I don't want to ruin it for you. Not to mention that Alec Baldwin has one of the best monologues you will ever find in a movie in that one.

actonbell said...

Interesting post--I haven't figured out what my opinion is--are doctors' expectations to high, or are the insurance companies being greedy? Maybe both. It's too complicated for me...

Econo-Girl said...

Maria Shriver DOES look like a space alien!

Jamie Dawn said...

Scary stuff!
There are some docs (few and far between) who take CARE of their patients. Others just rush them out the door with a prescription quickly scribbled.
I had a cousin DIE from getting a MOLE REMOVED! The doc put WAY too much numbing medication in the area of the mole and actually injected a large amount in her bloodstream. She had instant cardiac arrest, followed by several more heart attacks and died within about 8 hours. It was HORRIBLE. She was in her twenties with two small girls and a bewildrered hubby.
The doc was careless and negilgent.
During one of my throat surgeries, my doc or one of his assitants BROKE my thyroid cartilage (front of my larynx.) What a painful nightmare that was!
Docs get paid very well, and we deserve their attention and best care.
Your friend's case shows how docs can be very careless. I'm so glad all went well for her and the baby.

Emi said...

I have to disagree; there are at least three practices in my hometown (which isn't very big) that have gone out of business because they couldn't afford the malpractice insurance. There are times when a doctor does need to be held liable, but there are more when people are simply being absurd. My roommate's aunt wanted to sue the doctors when her mother (my roomate's grandmother) died in the hospital, after two emergency surgeries related to a chronic problem. I think that the non-medical community tends to expect miracles from their doctors, who are only human and are limited in what they can do. But then, the country has been gripped by an epidemic of frivolous lawsuits recently, so I suppose it's inevitable.

Liquidplastic said...

Oh my goodness! It goes from bad to worst. I guess I am going to go back to Mississippi and asked to be treated by the voodoo doctors, at least it seem my chances would be better.