AAJ: “Patients’ Rights Aren’t Bargaining Chips”

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For Immediate Release: September 4, 2009

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
202-965-3500, ext. 369
media.replies@justice.org

AAJ: “Patients’ Rights Aren’t Bargaining Chips”

Health care reform must reduce medical errors and not limit patients’ legal rights

Washington, DC—The American Association for Justice (AAJ) today blasted the rhetoric and mistruths in the public debate on health care reform and made clear to Congress that a final bill must decrease the number of medical errors, not bargain away the legal rights of injured patients.

***AAJ will hold a press briefing via teleconference on Wednesday, September 9, at 1pm EST to discuss the organization’s policy positions on health care reform.  Please email media.replies@justice.org for call-in information.***

AAJ formally released an analysis of scholarly research showing that arguments about medical malpractice and health care costs have been thoroughly debunked by new data.  The analysis highlights how new proposals to promote patient safety will have more cost savings than expensive, bureaucratic experiments like health courts.  In addition, recent data shows the number of physicians is at an all-time high, rejecting anecdotes that the civil justice system has driven doctors out of business.

The analysis also demonstrates how reducing preventable medical errors is a direct way to improve the current health care system.  According to the Institute of Medicine, preventable medical errors kill as many as 98,000 people every year, the nation’s sixth leading cause of death. 

“Patients’ rights aren’t bargaining chips.  Considering 98,000 people die every year from medical errors, health care reform should first do no harm,” said AAJ President Anthony Tarricone.  “The legal rights of injured patients simply can’t be bargained away.”

Even though sound research clearly shows the legal system does not drive health care costs, inaccurate information about medical malpractice continues to plague honest debate about reforming America’s health care system.  AAJ’s analysis debunks many of these long-held myths with the latest data:

  • Medical malpractice is a tiny percentage of health care costs – less than two percent of overall spending – according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Restricting patients’ legal rights would have little to no effect on premiums or health care costs.
  • According to the American Medical Association, the total number of physicians is increasing faster than population growth and at an all-time high.  States that do not cap damages actually have 13 percent more doctors per capita than states with caps.
  • Medical malpractice suits are less than one percent of the entire civil caseload, and have been declining for nearly a decade.
  • The GAO and CBO have found no evidence of so-called “defensive medicine,” instead determining that doctors run additional tests to generate more income or help diagnose patients.

“The debate on health care reform should not be hijacked by tired, inaccurate arguments about medical malpractice,” said Tarricone.  “Americans deserve a thoughtful plan that improves patient safety while not limiting the legal remedies of those injured through no fault of their own.”

The analysis cites several preventative measures being used by the medical community to avoid infections, surgical accidents and neglect.  These measures would have tremendous cost savings, and more importantly, help save lives.

“Limiting medical errors and preserving the civil justice system, while finding real solutions to make health care affordable, is the best way to protect patients and improve access for all,” said Tarricone.

For a full copy of the analysis, visit: www.justice.org/medicalnegligence.

AAJ will hold a press briefing via teleconference on Wednesday, September 9, at 1pm to discuss the organization’s policy positions on health care reform.  Please email media.replies@justice.org for call-in information.

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As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org/newsroom.

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