I was most interested in the full page ad that Duffy, Duffy and Burro put into our local paper to incite further paydays for themselves. This advert includes portions of what appear to be a fairly weak case (uterine cramps in a pregnancy, golly gee. Doctor is not immediately available when labor begins, etc., all fairly standard stuff), with no rebuttal from the defendants.
Therefore, these doctors are having their names dragged through the mud on the back of profiteering lawyers on the rather suspect grounds that this is good for society.
So let us take a minute to really consider what is going on. We the public must pay these awards. Medical inflation is currently running at about 20 percent. Medical expenditure as a proportion to GNP is about two or three times higher in the USA compared to European counterparts. The unemployed or even the self-employed either cannot afford medical insurance or come to the conclusion that the costs are a mathematically illogical tab. Employed people will see their benefits continuing to erode, to the point that individuals will soon only get catastrophic benefits.
Why is this? One factor is certain that modern medicine may cost more and new costly procedures once proven tend to be demanded by previously untreated people.
The other main factor is the Tort system itself. Higher awards for an ever broadening definition of negligence. Doctors have to pay exorbitant medical malpractice insurance premiums - forcing them to incease their fees or sometimes into early retirement. They are terrified of any errors thus forcing defensive medicine, which leads to patients being sent to a specialist (more costs) or patients taking batteries of tests and patients always walking away from every visit with some type of medicine or antibiotic. All these procedures mean that it is more difficult to see your doctor for simple questions or check-ups. If ever you call up you are immediately sent to the emergency ward as a doctor is too scared to suggest waiting till the morning. Doctors are no longer able to practice their trade.
The emergency room makes you wait for five hours for a procedure that needs no more than a nurse or two minutes of a doctor's valuable time. Such a visit might set back the ever suffering insurance company $1,500. Cost in France $50.
Whose fault is this? It certainly is not the insurance companies. Try finding profitable accident and health insurers. The moment an insurance company shows a combined ratio of anything better that 100 percent, competition rushes in making any reasonable profits both the exception and when occurring - short-lived. In fact, even as I am writing this explanation of the crisis CIGNA's share price has dropped 44 percent this morning. The analysts have not got there yet (when do they?), but CIGNA is probably doomed. This will lead to thousands of job losses, unpaid claims and even less vibrancy in the private insurance marketplace. Expect a further bloodbath of medical insurance stocks.
Is it the doctors? Certainly they should be dispatching more patients and delegating to nurses - but how can they? They will just be sued with their career in ruins and years of hard work in medical school for naught.
No - the primary and easily correctable blame lies with the personal injury lawyers. They threaten the very fabric of society. A number of them nurture a culture of shallow morality or even fraud (consider the abundance of medical mills - lawyers teaming up with doctors to encourage unnecessary medical procedures to build spurious lawsuits). Their numbers and salaries grow exponentially. Everyone else loses. Occasionally doctors are genuinely negligent. Punitive damages have a role to play. But these punitive damage awards should not be a huge windfall to the lawyer or even to the claimant but should go back to society to help subsidize various medical costs.
Notwithstanding that this was a higher risk pregnancy, (being twins and one would hope, all things being equal, that the chosen doctor is available within a reasonable time frame), we are on a slippery road here. An award to the claimant may well be deserved. All the balanced facts are not mentioned in the advert. The danger being that there is even more pressure on the doctor to be constantly on hand to an ever-broadening definition of high risk pregnancy. Having babies can be construed as a high risk pastime. Thus we are now not far away from the moment that one gets cramps during labor, that emergency room procedures should be activated and the treating physician be dragged out of bed to stand by holding hands during 30 hours (charging $300 an hour) of labor. If this physician happens to have another needy patient with a headache - well wheel him or her into the emergency room too. The doctor has two hands. In fact turn the whole hospital into an emergency room, nobody can afford to stay overnight any more.
The cost of pregnancy will get even more absurd. Socialized medicine becomes even more inevitable.
The public rates lawyers and politicians as the lowest on the totem pole of professions. However, what few people have figured out is that most politicians are lawyers. In response to the public's contempt of politicians the public is hoodwinked by the proposed solution of term limits. This merely churns the problem rather than solving it. The actual solution is to limit the proportion of lawyers who can enter our lawmaking bodies. (Congress and the Senate.) The lawyers should not be making the laws but rather acting as consultants to politicians (drawn from a wide selection of professional backgrounds) and drafting the laws that benefit society and not the legal community.
This is not going to happen until the public wakes up. In the meantime expect to be inundated by self-serving, disingenuous and highly damaging adverts similar to the one I am discussing here. More TV commercials, radio spots, more posters. These ads are easy to spot - you know the ones that encourage you to sue when you are silly enough (or lucky enough) to trip. Don't worry, they will find someone you can blame. These subliminal messages all serve to undermine morality and the very suspect motives of the judges (yes, they are lawyers too) in such cases, who are able to manipulate pliable and ill informed juries. (Any potential jury member demonstrating any general knowledge is weeded out.)
If the reader of this letter is in any way confused, just ask yourself one question over and over again - who is really paying for all these $80 million awards?
In conclusion here are the rather simple solutions:
1) Meaningful Tort Reform
2) Revamp the manner in which personal injury lawyers get paid.
3) Make the claimant pay for the costs of frivolous lawsuits.
4) Punitive damages to be put into a central fund to subsidize medical services.
5) reduce the number of lawyers in the legislature from say 90 percent (just a guess) to 25 percent.
Easy stuff, until you consider who is running the show.