Instead of attacking liability system, focus on error prevention

LETTER — Posted Jan. 18, 2010

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Regarding "Survey links burnout, surgical errors," (Briefs, Dec. 7, 2009): According to a national survey commissioned by the American College of Surgeons, 9% of the 7,905 physicians surveyed stated concern that they, in the words of the AMNews article, "had made a serious error in the previous three months."

Given the large number of various surgical specialists in the U.S., and the critical nature of many of the operative procedures they perform, does it not logically follow that there will be thousands of quite legitimate medical malpractice lawsuits filed as a result of the morbidity and mortality that occurs as a direct result of those errors?

Instead of expending so much time, effort, and money in constantly attacking plaintiff attorneys, and medical expert-consultants who are legally required as necessary components of a professional negligence lawsuit, I suggest it would be much more productive and ultimately beneficial to all parties concerned, especially patients, if that intense energy and emotional zeal were to be directed toward the diminution or elimination of these mostly preventable errors.

In the words of the immortal Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Cyril H. Wecht, MD, JD, Pittsburgh

Editor's note: Dr. Wecht is a forensic pathologist and a medical-legal consultant.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/01/18/edlt0118.htm.

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