by Michael Koskoff
October 1, 2009
In a recent opinion piece in the Post, Dr. Robert Levine, of Norwalk, attacks our malpractice system, using bogus statistics and faulty logic. For example, as a respected neurologist it is surprising that he would use a CBS news report from 2007, as the source for his statistic on the cost of so-called “defensive medicine”. Would Dr. Levine rely on a report from CBS news for treating a patient? In fact, the Government Accounting Office studied those allegations regarding the cost of defensive medicine and found no reliable basis for the doctors’ claims. In spite of this fact, Doctors like Dr. Levine continue to recite the unsubstantiated numbers in order to create an atmosphere of fear and crisis and protect their own pocket books. It is certainly convenient to blame lawyers for unnecessary tests and procedures even though it is Doctors who profit on them.
The true crisis faced in the country is the deadly pervasive prevalence of medical errors in the clinics and hospitals in the United States. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 100,000 Americans die in the hospitals each year as a result of medical negligence. That is greater than the numbers who die on the highways and the fields of war combined.
As a response to that problem Dr. Levine does offer some useful suggestions: As he states, we must decrease the incidence of negligence, improve the quality of care, remove incompetent physicians and punish those who are guilty of negligence. If we can even make headway along those lines Dr. Levine would see his malpractice premiums plummet and, more importantly, there would be substantially fewer victims to compensate.
In response to his claims regarding non-meritorious lawsuits, Dr. Levine fails to mention that Connecticut lawmakers have already responded to the problem by adopting a rigorous process for screening medical negligence cases. Under the current law, no suit can even be filed without a certificate of merit from a qualified physician. As a result, the numbers of lawsuits filed each year has remained steady for more than ten years and has even begun to decline. Malpractice premiums have also begun to decline.
To be sure, improvements can be made in the system: more injured people need to be compensated and some cases cannot be resolved properly until all of the facts are known. For the most part, however, our juries do an unparalleled job in meting out justice. Our jury system is not perfect, but it is the envy of ordinary people all over the world.
Lastly, the insults hurled by Dr. Levine at legal profession are beneath him, but unfortunately too typical of the lack of civil discourse that seems to be sweeping the country by extremist groups. The truth of the matter, Dr. Levine, is that the overwhelming majority of trial lawyers are decent people, honesty trying to help people whose lives have been devastated by bad medical care.