Man Without Qualities

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Curing Health Care

In today's Wall Street Journal Walter Olson scribes a terrific article on the ongoing medical malpractice wars that threaten the heart of American health care. Subscription to the Journal is required, but the following excerpt should give some suggestion of what is at stake:

[A] comprehensive new three-year study surveying what is known about the causes of cerebral palsy and brain injury in full and near-full term infants ... [finds that] "the vast majority" of brain damage and cerebral palsy among these infants originates in factors largely or completely outside the control of delivery-room personnel -- factors that include prenatal infection, genetic fetal abnormalities, disorders of blood clotting, and maternal thyroid problems and diabetes. Contrary to what had long been assumed, interruption of oxygen during labor is "not a significant cause in most of the cases." Why is this news? In part because lawsuits blaming OBs for cerebral palsy and other infant brain damage may constitute the single biggest branch of medical malpractice litigation, yielding lawyers the highest settlements and the richest contingency fees, rivaled only by failure to diagnose cancer. If ACOG's report is to be credited, much of this litigation looks to be scientifically unfounded.

There's lots more, all of it worth reading and thinking about.

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