Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Kinds of Lies

By Norman Chenven, MD

Mark Twain, in “Chapters From My Autobiography,” popularized the saying: “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics.” That phrase has found its perfect application in law professor Charles Silver’s opinion piece regarding Texas tort reform. No objective, intelligent, highly educated lay person could reasonably make any sense regarding the merits of of the 2003 law after having read the two competing commentaries which quote a host of apparently contradictory and obscure statistics along with a gratuitous ad hominem attack by Silver on Howard Marcus, MD and the entire medical profession.

A lay person needs to know only a handful of common sense data bits about tort law before attempting to assess its value or societal benefit:
  1. Texas tort reform does not deprive injured individuals of their ability to sue or be granted multimillion dollar judgments when those judgments are warranted. The law limits the recovery of pain and suffering-type damages at $750,000. It places no cap on past or future medical bills or lost income from injury.
  2. The fact that smaller cities and rural communities have been able to recruit doctors in high-risk specialties such as obstetrics and emergency medicine is well documented. This is a fact not a statistic.
  3. The total cost of the legal system to Texans (plaintiff and defense lawyers’ fees, malpractice insurance premiums, medical expert testimony, court costs, and yes, judgments and settlements) has been cut in half. Another fact not a statistic.
  4. Considerable funding and clout was given to the Texas Medical Board in the 2003 legislative session. The strengthening of the board was supported by the Texas Medical Association and virtually all medical professionals. Unethical and incompetent doctors have been routinely identified, sanctioned and deprived of their licenses in board action. The public is better protected than ever before.
Finally, my organization, Austin Regional Clinic, along with most hospitals and physician groups, is actively investing in new technologies to improve access and quality of care. The cost of these investments such as electronic medical records, e-prescribing, and outreach programs dwarfs any dollar savings realized from tort reform.

This letter was posted in commentary on a blog post by Charles Silver.  The original blog post can be found at The Healthcare Blog.

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