Patients should not have to give up their right to sue


POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

The editorial, “;

Tort Reform Worth Trying

“; (Star-Bulletin, Sept. 14), is a red herring. Tort reform has no place in the current health care debate and the legal rights of injured patients aren't bargaining chips.

Even though research shows the legal system does not drive health care costs, some are intent on using it as a distraction from the real issues anyway. As the editorial points out, restricting the rights of patients will do little to reduce overall health care costs for Americans. The debate should be focusing on reducing preventable medical errors, which kill as many as 98,000 people each year at a cost of $29 billion.

As the St. Louis Dispatch reported in a Sept. 14 story: “;Few economists believe tort reform by itself — even the most radical tort reform — would significantly reduce what Americans spend on health care. Most experts say the big reasons for high U.S. health spending are chronic illness, expensive new medical technology and an aging population. Lawsuits are far down the list.”;

The truth of the matter in Hawaii is that most doctors never injure their patients through avoidable errors, but when it happens the doctor should be responsible. In Hawaii last year there were fewer than 100 claims made against doctors.

Americans deserve reform that makes health care affordable and increases patient safety. Tort reform won't lower costs or cover the uninsured, only make it more difficult for those injured, through no fault of their own, to pursue legal recourse.



Wayne Parsons is an attorney in Honolulu and past president of the Hawaii Association of Justice.