A view from the other side (NEJM – subscription required). This time it’s George Annas, the medical ethicist and JD from Boston, with a dissenting view on the malpractice problem:
Like most defendants in tort litigation, physicians have always despised malpractice suits. Even those who consider litigation appropriate in cases of serious injury to a patient still think of the system as fundamentally flawed and corrupt. But modifying the traditional tort system in ways that will benefit both physicians and patients is much more difficult than is usually recognized by the medical profession and requires sustained and constructive dialogue with the legal profession. With respect to the issue of patient safety, at least, lawyers and physicians should see themselves as natural allies, rather than as predator and prey. The patient-safety problem is complicated, and no single change in the tort system (including a recognition of a right to safety) will solve it, any more than the elimination of legal liability for vaccine manufacturers will solve our chronic vaccine shortages.