University of Michigan devises simpler, cheaper response to malpractice: honesty
The Associated Press reported today that the University of Michigan has published an article in the Journal of Health & LIfe Sciences Law detailing the positive impact of its new and different approach to malpractice claims: it offers to meet with patients, apologizes for mistakes, offers compensation where appropriate and has significantly reduced its costs and payouts. The administrator of the program, a well-known and respected malpractice defense lawyer named Richard Boothman, explained that claims against the health system fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006 and open claims dropped from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. The average time to process a claim fell from 20 months to 8 months, defense costs were cut in half and reserves were diminished by two-thirds.
A Harvard University study showed that about 181,000 people are severely injured by hospital mistakes each year in the U.S., but that only about 30,000 of these innocent victims file legal claims. In an article in the journal Health Affairs, the author of the Harvard study concluded that many victims don't sue because they never learn of the mistake. The Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, would like to curb malpractice damage suits by making any admission of fault by a medical professional inadmissible in court. The Institute thinks that doctors should be protected from the truth, rather than following the U. of Michigan example. We prefer the U of M approach and Mark Twain's recommendation, as voiced to the Associated Press by Norm Tucker: that truth be the immediate fall-back position when you find yourself in doubt.