- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2002

Wednesday's editorial “Trial lawyers and the terrorist threat” is at best misdirected and at worst disingenuous. Damages in medical malpractice are designed to give the medical community an incentive to improve the quality of care as well as to compensate the victims.

The instances of medical malpractice I have read about are not cases of runaway juries giving away millions after being duped by smooth-talking lawyers. Rather, they involve situations in which doctors, other medical personnel and health care providers made egregious professional errors that caused death, disfigurement and disability to human beings.

The judicial system has built-in rules to guard against jury verdicts that are excessive or fly in the face of the evidence. For example, regarding the former, New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (subsection 5501(c)) instructs courts to decide whether the jury's verdict “deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation.” Regarding the latter, Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the judge to overrule verdicts that are not in accord with the evidence.

The medical profession has done a less-than-rigorous job of policing its own ranks. Yes, it does some policing, and yes, continuing medical education is required. But clearly, it is not doing the job well enough. Yet, instead of prodding the medical profession to develop innovative ways of increasing the quality of care, The Times gave us lawyer bashing. Because lawyers are not causing poor care, having The Times take this approach doesn't help solve the underlying problem. Rather than simply parroting the medical community's spin on this issue, The Times should try thinking outside the box. Such thinking wouldn't lead to “tort reform” or “insurance reform.” It would lead to medical reform.


Rock Island, Ill.

“Trial lawyers and the terrorist threat” aptly describes the problem of run-away medical malpractice suits, but not the solution. I take issue with The Times' editorial position: “At a minimum, it's time that the medical community gets serious about carving out some form of war or terrorism-related exemption.” Expecting doctors to fix the litigation-induced reduction of medical services is futile because doctors are not the cause of the problem.

Doctors in Nevada and the other states where malpractice litigation is out of control are no more incompetent than doctors in other states. The litigation-loving citizens of those states have created their own crisis by allowing lawsuits against any doctor for any reason.

Do the people of Las Vegas and its environs want life-saving trauma care? Let them enact tort reform. Then maybe doctors will feel safe enough to serve them again.


Upland, Calif.

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