US Chamber Trashes Disclosure & Apology; Reflections on Conservatives and Lawsuits
Recently we shared in this space that the American Medical Association (AMA) has endorsed disclosure and apology, including the parts about family's being represented by attorneys and upfront payments for medical errors. The AMA joined a long list of medical, insurance, and legal organizations who have formally endorsed disclosure and apology.
However, apparently, the US Chamber of Commerce hates disclosure & apology.
The US Chamber, which claims to be a friend and protector of all businesses -- including hospitals, nursing homes, insurers, and doctors -- publicly ridiculed disclosure and apology and Sorry Works! last week. And this isn't the first time they've smeared the disclosure movement.
The US Chamber pooped on disclosure via one of their weekly lawsuit newspapers. The Chamber publishes several legal newspapers...at least one paper with a national focus, and several others based in Chicago, West Virginia, St. Louis, and other areas Tom Donohue and friends deem too litigious. These papers report on everything from slip & fall lawsuits to class actions, and they are about as objective as Rachel Maddow or Rush Limbaugh. The Chamber's "big scoop" was that a 2005 Illinois pilot study commission on disclosure was removed from the books by the Illinois governor. So what? The pilot study program was never needed and never used. I hesitated to respond to this moronic attack, but, I also believe unanswered charges can lead to reputational damage.
The Chamber's continual hatchet job on Sorry Works! and disclosure stirred up some memories about my brother's death from medical errors. There are many things I remember about that awful time, including how my colleagues treated me. They were not only empathetic and caring, but they also wanted to help my family find a lawyer to sue the hospitals and doctors. While I appreciated the support, I was genuinely surprised by the offers of legal help given that I worked for the Illinois House Republicans!
I joined the Illinois House Republican staff in late 1995, shortly after our caucus passed comprehensive tort reform, which included caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. As a press secretary, I was actually in charge of orchestrating the press conference celebrating the one-year anniversary of our tort reform package. Then, two years later my brother died from medical errors. Numerous colleagues told me, "We are going to help you find a lawyer," and "Those doctors are going to pay!" and "They will re-name that hospital after your brother!" and so on.
I was heartened but also a little confused...weren't we the ANTI-lawsuit Republicans? Had I been a stranger to these people would they have been so supportive? Or would judgment been cast upon me such as "He's greedy"...."The doctors did their best".... 'His frivolous lawsuit will make healthcare more expensive" and so on? However, personal relationships trumped politics, and the Illinois House Republicans did right by me and my family.
But shouldn't we always do right by people, regardless of our relationships and politics?
I still generally vote Republican and support conservative causes. However, this experience nearly 20 years ago was an eye-opener. Republicans and conservatives -- in general -- will try to limit the rights of others to pursue litigation and other means of redress. Tort reform is a favorite campaign pledge for most Republicans. However I've learned if a Republican or one of his/her friends or family is injured, well, then, let's get the best lawyer in the town because the doctor needs to pay! Interesting.
The Chamber is a conservative/Republican leaning organization that very is pro-tort reform. They regularly go out of their way to shame people who seek justice for medical errors, often through their weekly newspapers. But, again, I wonder how the Chamber would respond if one of their own suffered a death or injury due to medical errors? Would they plaster a nasty story in one of their papers, or would they help a colleague in need? Would politics or relationships triumph in Tom Donohue's shop?
This is why we have positioned Sorry Works! to be non-political, and really non-legal. I have tried extremely hard to steer doctors and nurses away from the political arena and legal fights and back to their patients and families, especially when something goes wrong. Because the real trouble with politics is not only can strangers get hurt, but so can your friends. The Chamber claims to love doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes, but they have literally hurt doctors with their political shenanigans surrounding disclosure. The medical community is working hard to embrace disclosure, but the US Chamber is making that job more difficult with their silly PR stunts. I encourage the US Chamber to put down their poison pens, and learn why the AMA along with so many other healthcare and insurance organizations as well as hospitals and nursing homes have endorsed disclosure.
Doug Wojcieszak, 618-559-8168