September 29, 2009

Life Without Defensive Medicine

Hatched by Dafydd

Back in 1996, Philip K. Howard wrote one of the most extraordinary books I've ever read: the Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America. This year, he published Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law (he has written books in between those, too).

Howard has an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal (I don't believe a subscription is required) revealing the dark secret behind the adamant refusal of Democrats even to consider any significant curtailing of medical-malpractice lawsuits. Of course, it's not really a secret; it's just "common sense": The Democrats' most reliable fundraising allies in the nation are the trial lawyers; and to a man (or woman), it seems, trial lawyers like the current system of vaguely written "jackpot justice" just fine:

Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually, according to estimates by the American Medical Association and others. The cure is a reliable medical malpractice system that patients, doctors and the general public can trust.

But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That's because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now.

It's a spectacular column, just as the Death of Common Sense is spectacular (I haven't read Life Without Lawyers yet). I urge you all to click through immediately and read the whole thing... gosh, I've always wanted to say that! Since I began by quoting the lede, I'll conclude by quoting the final paragraph, which sums up the in-depth article quite succinctly:

Trial lawyers often claim that any alternative to the current medical malpractice justice system, such as specialized health courts, will only make it more difficult for injured patients to seek justice. But that's why you start with a pilot project. If these courts are unfair they will be rejected. But if they succeed -- that is, are fairer to patients and doctors -- they could provide a solid foundation for rebuilding an effective, less costly health-care system than we have today.

Now if only we had a president and majority party honestly interested in lowering the staggering cost of health care, rather than using the high price (and some number of people unable to get insurance) as the "crisis" that Rahm Emanuel urges them not to let go to waste.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2009, at the time of 7:55 PM

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