Congress Tackles Medical Liability Reform: Our View

The new Congress is already making headlines, including the fact that several members have introduced comprehensive proposals to dramatically reform the nation’s medical liability system.

I’m pleased to see this development, because we have long argued that our toxic medical liability system is badly in need of reform. It turns patients and doctors into adversaries, and is actually counterproductive to the goal of promoting patient safety.

That’s why, for example, we have proposed legislation that protects physicians’ statements of apology, and provides for early compensation of patients who have suffered an adverse medical event. We also support a “cooling-off period” that allows time for a root-cause analysis of adverse events, which is  critical to improving quality and safety. Programs like these have been in place at the University of Michigan health care system, and have produced significant results.

I hope that these congressional proposals signal a new interest in medical liability reform. We’ll look carefully at all these proposals, and looks forward to working with the members of Congress, to finally make progress on this pressing issue.

Alice A. Tolbert Coombs, MD
President, Massachusetts Medical Society

  1. Peter D. Oldak, MD says:

    The entire tort liability system should be scrapped.
    The threat of malpractice suits are responsible for the excessive use of expensive and sometimes harmful diagnostic and therapeutic interventions which to a major extent are responsible for the spiraling medical costs.
    Instead, the system should be bifurcated. Each adverse event should be evaluated by a board of practicing physicians. If a physician is practicing under the standard of care, he should be remanded to additional training. If he falls into a repeat offender pattern, his license should be pulled.
    Patients who suffer injuries, should be handle the same way workmen’s compensation cases are handled. Financing of this system could include some fee ($1) at each visit at a health care provider’s facility. There could also be contributions by the health care providers and business. If it worked well, the whole workmen’s compensation program could be folded into it, much to the benefit of America’s overburdened business.

  2. Bruce Bodner M.D. says:

    There is no way to establish a viable global payment accountable care organization with the current medical malpractice system. The Democratic party is beholden to the trial lawyer association, a relationship which will prevent meaningful liability reform.

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