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Editorial or Commercial

Editorial or Commercial

After opening the newspaper on Friday, I read an editorial written by Mr. Sadler Bailey entitled, "Protect patients in need, not the insurance companies' interests." The title caught my eye. I thought, perhaps I could learn something from Mr. Bailey's ideas. Then again, perhaps not.

It appears from the editorial that Mr. Bailey believes the "Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017" is going to protect negligent behavior on the part of medical professionals and healthcare institutions and it strips from individuals and families the ability to seek jury trials for harm and wrongful death. It does not. Mr. Bailey may be considered a concerned citizen who is voicing his thoughts about the bill and how the construction of the legislation may affect him personally. I think not. He is the founder of Bailey and Greer law firm and is the past president of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association. He is a well known attorney to physicians since he makes a living out of suing for medical malpractice.

According to Mr. Bailey, the Journal of Patient Safety has published research concluding that 440,000 patients die every year from medical errors and negligence. That is a surprising statistic to say the least. I looked up the Journal of Patient Safety and found the article that Mr. Bailey is referencing. The article, "A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care," was published in September 2013. The new estimates were developed by John T. James PhD, a toxicologist at NASA's space center in Houston who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America. Dr. James has also written a book about the death of his 19-year-old son after what Dr. James maintains was negligent hospital care.

The study takes a very aggressive approach blending four small independent studies examining potential adverse events recorded in medical records from hospital settings, not nursing homes. There were roughly four thousand medical records examined total however one study had two thousand four hundred records examined over a six month period of time in ten hospitals in North Carolina. The other three studies were much smaller in scale. The conclusion of this grieving father was that mistakes are made in hospital settings. He uses a number of statistical techniques to amplify the true incidences of these potential adverse events and the lethality of them. Dr. James concluded: In a sense, it does not matter whether the deaths of 100,000, 200,000 or 400,000 Americans each year are associated with PAEs in hospitals. Any of the estimates demands assertive action on the part of providers, legislators and people who will one day become patients.  He did not identify trial lawyers or jury trials as a solution for answerability. It was clear that even he thought that he may be overstating the magnitude of the problem. None-the-less, it is a serious problem.

When I looked up deaths from medical errors, I found that The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) seminal study of preventable medical errors estimated that as many as 98,000 people die every year at a cost of $29 billion. If the Centers for Disease Control were to include preventable medical errors as a category, these conclusions would make it the sixth leading cause of death in America.

Mr. Bailey makes the argument that the evidence is irrefutable that accountability improves health care. I suspect he believes physicians and healthcare providers need to be accountable to him, his trial lawyer associates or his clients in some form or fashion to the tune of millions of dollars. He is not concerned over the errors being committed, he is very much concerned over the fact that if this legislation passes, it will limit jury awards for non-economic damage (pain and suffering) to less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for every case, regardless of the circumstances. His idea is that families affected by this bill will have no real means to hold accountable those responsible for a severe case of abuse or neglect. His logic fits an irrational worldview. I wonder who holds him accountable for all the lives he may have ruined by attempting to prove a malpractice case when no malpractice was performed but a patient's outcome was just not in accord of what the family thought it should be.

Mr. Bailey makes powerful statements about nursing home negligence and abuse, suggesting that both pervade in the industry as a result of profit pressures. He cites administrators for making quick hires and staffing their facilities inappropriately. He also suggests that vulnerable loved ones are neglected, left to dehydrate and even starve. He cites no accurate statistics or data, just his thoughts on the subject are shared. The four hundred forty thousand deaths from patient adverse errors which Mr. Bailey cited from the Journal of Patient Safety were from studies in hospitals, not nursing homes. I was told by my high school writing teacher that confusion is never a good way to make a case for your position in an argument. Stay to the facts of the matter.

I cannot speak for the nursing home industry at large, but I believe that there are many factors that impact the care of people in nursing homes. One of the most disturbing is that our nation does not have a viable healthcare program for all of our citizens which means we all need to assure that each person, regardless of ability to pay, must have safe, dignified care by skilled personnel. Mr. Bailey does not seem to champion that cause because if he did, his honey pot might just dwindle away. The bill he is referring to greatly impacts his ability to make the big score and that will impact his personal financial situation. The editorial seems like reading a Morgan and Morgan commercial.

The title of the editorial suggests the bill protects the insurance companies, not the patients. Not once did Mr. Bailey speak to the subject of healthcare insurance industry nor the insurance companies that insure the healthcare providers for malpractice. The title of the editorial caught my eye, but the substance was an argument to keep him in business by trying to convince people he is on their side. I wonder how many cases Mr. Bailey has turned down that were obvious malpractice cases but required a great deal of time and effort on his part as well as knowing that the return on his investment would be minimal at best. How many has he championed without personal gain what-so-ever?

I agree with Mr. Bailey on one issue: Congress should fight for more accountability. I just do not want a trial lawyer policing the medical and nursing home industries just like I do not want a physician deciding the fate of a civil or criminal action from the bench. I suspect over half of the members of Congress are attorneys and look at the progress we have made in the past ten years.

Little progress at best.


Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:39 AM
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