Medical Malpractice Cuts Not the Answer

Article excerpt

Tort reform--legislation that aims to reduce medical malpractice suits --will not cut medical costs and improve health care unless the government addresses the proliferation of unnecessary medical errors that victimize hundreds of thousands of patients every year, contends Ruqaiijah Yearby, associate professor in the University at Buffalo (N.Y.) Law School.

Yearby's research considers how laws enacted to grant equal access to quality health care actually can pose barriers to the disenfranchised, and she is critical of health care reform efforts that do not address the far-reaching problem of medical errors. Finding ways to curb what she calls the "alarming rate of these medical errors," not only will reduce medical malpractice suits, but save lives and prevent the misery of innocent victims, she asserts.

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Yearby, who directs the Joint JD-Master of Public Health Program, cites data from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, regarding medical errors and their consequences. "The IOM concludes that about 98,000 Americans died from unnecessary medical errors in 2000, deaths that cost the nation approximately $39,000,000,000." In August of this year, she adds, additional data showed that deaths from unnecessary medical errors have increased to about 200,000, making medical error the third-leading cause of death in the U. …

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