Dancing Between the Polar Extremes in the Med-Mal Debate
The debate over medical malpractice and patient safety contains some extremely polarizing characters. However, imagine getting panned by both sides -- now, that's a trick. I've earned that distinction with Sorry Works! There are elements of the healthcare and insurance industries who consider me to be a plant by the plaintiff's bar. Then, last week one prominent patient advocate called me a "shill" for the tort reformers who is anti-patient safety. Wow....which hat do I wear?!?
I share these stories to illustrate what make us unique at Sorry Works! We call it like we see it. I think a person/organization is being fair and realistic when attacked by both sides of the polar extremes. Call it a badge of honor. Look, I've been in and out of countless hospitals, nursing homes, and insurance companies over the last 12+ years with a simple yet startling message: "If you don't want to get sued by people like me, here is how you clean up your messes. Be open, accountable, and fair with economic and non-economic compensation, and show us how the mistakes will be prevented in the future. Treat patients and families as you would like to be treated." That message has earned me some enemies, and I've told more than one CEO that a certain lawyer or claims manager needs to be fired. Even more enemies, but I sleep well at night.
Conversely, while I've gladly talked many patients and families through adverse medical events, I am equally blunt with consumer advocates: "Not every adverse event is medical malpractice. Moreover, the medical system (which killed my brother and injured a nephew) is NOT evil. There is a lot of good that happens in medicine, and we've made great progress in the disclosure movement, but there is more work to do -- you have to be patient with the process. Finally, the best way we as consumers can make medicine safer is to do a better job taking care of ourselves. Our collective bad health habits are stressing the healthcare system, which increases the likelihood of errors. We need to live better lifestyles (healthy diets, more exercise, less booze and smokes). Indeed, the safest place is outside the hospital." Them is fighting words to some of the patient advocates lurking on social media, but, so be it. The truth is like a disinfectant...it stings.
My hope is that vitriol of some patient advocates does not become an excuse for healthcare professionals to shirk their ethical obligations post-event. It is also my hope the ethically challenged rascals who still populate the healthcare and insurance industries are not considered to be representative of all healthcare professionals -- they are many good clinicians who trying to do the right thing, especially after something goes wrong.
Doug Wojcieszak, 618-559-8168