It is amazing to me that there can be numerous health care plans in Congress plus a jillion speeches on the topic by the President and not once does anyone mention "torts." Now, I am not one to ascribe all cost problems in the medical field to defensive medicine and tort settlements. Buthey t certainly are a factor. It is just stunning that a President can stand up and talk numerous times about "unnecessary tests and procedures" and ascribe all of these to some weird profit motive by the doctors - weird because generally, the doctor gets no extra revenue from these tests, so somehow he or she is motivated by the profits of a third party lab.
But I think the rest of us understand that American tort law, which allows juries to make multi-million dollar judgements based on emotions and empathy rather than facts and true liability, has at least a share of the blame. Not just the settlements, but the steps doctors go through to try to protect themselves from frivolous suits down the road. Here are two interesting stories along these lines. The first from Carpe Diem:
Zurich University Hospital has stopped treating North American "medical tourists," fearing million-dollar claims from litigious patients if operations go wrong. Hospitals in canton Valais have also adopted measures to protect themselves against visitors from the United States, Canada and Britain.
"The directive applies only to patients from the US and Canada who come to Zurich for elective, non-essential health treatments," said Zurich University Hospital spokeswoman Petra Seeburger.
"It is not because treatment is not financed; it is because of different legal systems." In a statement the hospital said it was "not prepared to risk astronomical damages or a massive increase in premiums." Seeburger emphasised that the restrictions only affected people not domiciled in Switzerland.
Apologies to Mark Perry for quoting his whole post, but if you are not reading Mark Perry, you should be. The second example comes from Overlawyered:
Oh, I miss the days when you got a radiology report that said, "fracture right 3rd rib, no pneumothorax". Because of frivolous lawsuits radiologists have learned to be vague, noncommittal and to pass the buck of possible litigation. So now you get a 2 page report that says "linear lucency in right 3rd rib, clinical correlation recommended, underinflated lung fields cannot exclude underlying interstitial disease and or masses. CT recommended for further evaluation, if condition warrants." along with several other paragraphs of lawyer imposed legalmedspeak"¦.