Friday, July 29, 2005

The Medical Error Reporting Bill—More help or harm?

Congress has recently passed a bill to enhance the reporting of medical errors.

A national system designed to increase reporting of medical errors has won final congressional approval and been sent to President Bush.

It is estimated that more than 250 Americans die every day as a result of
preventable medical errors. Health care officials say increased reporting of
such errors would make it easier to spot harmful trends and find solutions, but
the current environment punishes openness because reporting such errors could
lead to the loss of credentials or a lawsuit.

Click Here for the rest of the Insurance Journal Article

While in theory, I too agree that this is a wonderful idea, I wonder how many congresspeople truly understand the stresses and pressures of medical emergencies. Yes, many, if not most medical error are underreported, and most are preventable. As such, nothing should stand in the way of preventing them.

However, hindsight is always 20/20. In the extreme stress of a situation, every single eventuality is not always immediately apparent. The practicioner has to make the best possible decision he or she can under the circumstances. After the fact, it is always possible for a defense lawyer, with six months to prepare, to have the luxury to do research and find the best possible solution, or reasons why the chosen decision was not the best. Try doing that when a patient is hemorrhaging on the floor, within seconds of bleeding to death.

I hope that this legislation will not result in having less decisive and less confident doctors; hesitant to do anything for fear of lawsuit.

There are too many lawyers for our own good, but that is another issue.