I try not to get too political in this blog but feel strongly enough about this that I figured I'd take the chance and post it. I sent this letter to the president. (What do you think the chances are he'll ever get it?)
Dear President Obama or whoever will be screening his millions of emails;
I have just finished reading your book, The Audacity of Hope and was very uplifted by your thoughts and ideas and am behind you all the way. BUT there is one topic you did not touch on that I feel is a fundamental problem with the way the US functions and specifically, a problem in the health care system. I am a physician (as is my wife) and we both voted for you and are in favor of health care reform (even nationalization) and your tax policies even as they are surely going to hurt our bottom line. What concerns us is the problem of frivolous lawsuits. I truly believe that the cost of health care is at least 60% higher because of concerns of lawsuits. This begins at the health industry supply level and extends to direct patient care which I experience every day. On a personal level, as much as I attempt to resist it, many of my tests and workups are geared to protecting my _ _ _ from potential malpractice or at least being able to defend my actions. Many of these tests are expensive and not completely benign to the patient, but they have become the 'standard of care'. Physicians in the US are not bad and primarily have the best in mind for the patient but the culture of indiscriminate lawsuits is rampant and literally drives our practices. The aggressive nature of lawyers to find business is despicable. Cases taken on contingency allow any individual to file frivolous lawsuits without consequence to their actions. For instance, I am involved in a lawsuit currently where I withheld a very dangerous treatment to a patient. It would have been criminal to have given it. The patient and his family feel that I was negligent in not giving it and brought suit. In their filings there have been three lawyer changes so far who obviously realize there is no defensible case. A fourth has taken it. I am not worried that I will lose this case but it is extremely irritating that there has been so much time and money spent on such a frivolous case. I don't mind being held accountable for my bad actions but there has to be some consequence to lawyers and individuals that literally harass others just because they can. My wife has left clinical practice because of this cloud of lawsuits and unfortunately she is the more compassionate one of us.
Now the reason I am writing this, even in the knowledge that the likelihood you will ever lay eyes on my words is minuscule, is that I do believe you are a man that can see the reality of what I am saying and maybe I too have the audacity of hope. The hope that despite your law background and the government being run by lawyers you might see the health care workers' perspective in your plans to fix our health care system. I am willing to take a cut in pay, but your friends, the lawyers, must as well, in order to achieve TRUE health care reform.
Thank you for listening.
Karl Vizmeg MD