September 16, 2004

Tort Reform and Health Care Costs

Silence and I have been enjoying a discussion on health care costs, centered around both Colorado Senatorial candidates' ideas on the topic.

He was "fact-checking my ass" to use the blogosphere vernacular. I had claimed that Senator Edwards had forced doctors to perform C-Sections by his suits against OB-Gyns.

According to an article in the WSJ Ed Page, my claim that "all children in the area were delivered by C-Section" was overstated. Yet I think my point holds:

John Edwards built his career suing doctors and hospitals, claiming that maternity-ward missteps caused newborns to develop cerebral palsy. The theory that doctor error is a common cause of CP was dubious when Mr. Edwards used it to win his cases, from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, and is universally rejected by experts today.

[...] attacks on alleged negligence in the maternity ward may actually have hurt the quality of patient care. Many CP lawsuits, including one that Mr. Edwards describes in his book, turned on the theory that doctors could have prevented CP by ordering a cesarian section. Such suits put nonmedical pressure on doctors and hospitals to choose c-sections. In the past 30 years, the proportion of births by c-section has gone up fivefold. But a 2003 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the rate of CP remains constant.

The articles author, as it happens has CP himself. He points out that to a lawyer, there is a villian for every problem, when in real life it might not be so. I like the close as well:
I can't blame Mr. Edwards for taking the opposite tack when he was a lawyer in private practice, seeking in each case to argue that someone else was at fault for whatever misfortune befell his clients. But I do blame him for fighting tort reform tooth and nail in the Senate. As a senator he is supposed to represent the public interest, not just the interests of plaintiffs and lawyers. His defense of the status quo implies that he is comfortable with the increasingly tendentious efforts of the trial bar to ascribe responsibility for nature's misfortunes to the deepest pockets around.

The big picture is that this represents a freedom grab by an unelected body. Trial lawyers shut down playgrounds, force medical procedures and change many aspects of our quotidian life -- with no authority of the governed. An MD friend of mine wanted to go into obstetrics, but was dissuaded by an instructor at medical school because of lawsuits. She chose another field but the choice should have been hers, not the lawyers'.

Posted by jk at September 16, 2004 08:54 AM

More contempt for facts and reason.

Posted by: johngalt at September 16, 2004 10:31 AM
| What do you think? [1]