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Massachusetts doctors, Joint Commission on Accreditation agree: existing system not improving patient care

The Hill, a Blog authored by the U.S. Congress, on June 8 quoted several doctors and the "Joint Commission" or JCAH (the accrediting agency for health care organizations in the U.S.)  to the effect that "Too little progress has been made in identifying, learning from, and ameliorating medical error.  It is clearly time to actively explore and test atlternatives to the medical liability system."   The JCAH was quoted to the effect that "the axiom 'you learn from your mistakes' is too little honored in health care," and that "an unintended consequence of the tort system is that it suppresses the information necessary to build systems of health care delivery." It is ironic that the legal system is blamed for medical providers failing to correct their mistakes, but that's life when special interests go unchallenged.

We presume the JCAH is alluding to health care providers' tendency to bury evidence of mistakes in order to avoid liability, the legislative confidentiality provided to peer review of medical errors,  and the medical liability insurers' insistence on confidential settlements.  Together these factual and legal developments create a system where the only intellectually honest examination of medical mistakes occurs in a setting where patients and family are legally excluded; a system where no one publicly acknowledges errors; and a system where "tens of thousands for defense but not a penny for tribute" is the norm.

In any event, this report from doctors and medical industry regulators comports with our own experience:  the medical industry relies on special interest legislation, propaganda that misleads jurors to victims' prejudice, and health care "collegiality," to distort the medical liability system and to deny too may mistake-victims a right to fair compensation.  Despite dramatic special protections enacted as part of "tort reform" and equally dramatic reductions in the number of malpractice filings, medical insurers and some doctors continue to beg state legislators for additional immunities and preferences--without any underlying justification. Legiitimate victims of carelessness are provided no reasonable forum in which they stand a reasonable likelihood of being made "whole" at reasonable cost.

The research performed in Texas, Illinois and other states, and the data collected from Medicare research, have all confirmed that mistakes occur in medicine just as they do elsewhere, and that more people die in the U.S. from PREVENTABLE medical errors than die from car accidents.  Nevertheless, instead of working to make the medical system safer and fairer, special interest lobbying works only to make claims less "expensive" to providers and more expensive to victims. 

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