The notion of medical malpractice reform is fraught with difficulty. At the heart of it is the reaction to individuals and their families to injury or death resulting from human error on the part of the medical system. As a people, the two things we have zero tolerance for are errors in our financial processes and our medical processes. The difference is that when it comes to finance, remuneration is easily accepted at the face value of the error leaving it to the judicial system to figure out any punishment that is necessary. With medical malpractice, however, there is the concept of trying to make whole the injured party, which is subjective with an unknowable future cost, plus the inherent empathy we all feel as human beings for medical damage.
The Public Handicapping
As an example, if a person loses their sight after undergoing a procedure that was undertaken to make the individual well but it goes poorly due to a mistake the physician makes, even though we know the individual can live out their life, there is such an abhorrence to the very concept that a jury of peers is predisposed to not only making the victim whole, but in some way seriously punishing the “perpetrator;” partly for the victim and partly for ourselves. Thus medical malpractice reform is handicapped by a public and congress attempting to preserve the ability to punish the perpetrators of such an unfathomable act.
Universal Health Care
The truth is that we need universal health care to solve this dilemma. If someone is blinded by poor medical treatment, as abhorrent the thought is, their medical treatment would be guaranteed for life, and the calculation of the other costs for their life becomes more finite. Transportation, accommodations such as animal assistance, home cleaning, shopping, and all the things one needs to survive comfortably become calculable–without rampant emotion. It comes down to how we balance the costs of such egregious injury from medical malpractice with the need to keep the costs of medicine under control. Preventable injuries, as deplorable as they are, should not be a windfall profit to the victim, yet the responsibility for the damage must be atoned for by the perpetrator in accordance with our laws against violence against others. As with all forms of justice, the goal is to “make whole” the victim as much as can be accomplished, while holding true to the concept of justice.