To the Editor:
In a recent letter to the editor (July 20), Congressman Randy Hultgren stated, “Ways to drive down health care prices include: Reform lawsuit abuse. When frivolous lawsuits are filed against doctors and hospitals, defensive medicine costs skyrocket.”
The congressman is spreading the medical malpractice myth: Plaintiffs are “frivolously” suing doctors left and right; it’s those greedy lawyers egging them on; and juries are abusing the system by awarding huge sums of cash to the plaintiffs. Because of this, doctors make decisions not to ensure the health of the patient, but as a safeguard against possible malpractice liability.
The truth is this: Medical malpractice lawsuits account for less than 1 percent of all health care costs in the U.S. Although tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors, only one in eight victims ever files a claim, and two-thirds of those who do never receive a dime. Juries tend to give the physicians and hospitals the benefit of the doubt.
Hultgren might be advocating taking away the rights of patients to have their medical concerns judged by their peers in a court of law to determine fair, if any, compensation is due them. As long as doctors and hospitals are reasonably careful, our justice system will protect them from unfounded lawsuits.