Tort Reform and Malpractice

There has to be a limit somewhere.

The problem with the system as it is now is that you have a jury made up of people with no medical or technical knowledge,   How can you pretend that they can make an educated decision if they are NOT educated in the subject at hand.

The medical professions have become so specialized that even a practicing physician may not really fully comprehend a subject that is beyond his own speciality.

Now bring in the lawyers who know that the jury is ignorant when it comes to the actual facts of the case; so they play the sympathy card.

I have a friend who is an oral surgeon.

I have another friend who required a rather involved surgical procedure that was to correct  problem with his lower jaw.

He had what is called a prognathic lower jaw; which means that his lower teeth stuck out in front of his upper teeth (the reverse of what is normal and functional).  It looks funny and makes it hard and sometimes painful to eat.  The corrective surgical procedure involves shortening the lower jaw (mandible) on both sides and removing excess bone to bring the upper and lower jaws and teeth into proper alignment.  The results would look better but more importantly it would make it easier to eat and possibly get rid of a TMJ problem that was very painful.

So friend number 2 (the patient) goes to friend number 1 (the oral surgeon).  I  had nothing to do with them getting together; the patient was recommended to the surgeon by another dentist.

The operation is done and it is a fantastic success.  The esthetic changes alone were truly remarkable.

Part of the routine in this kind of operation is having the jaws wired closed until the mandible heals enough to support the biting force.  It usually takes 3 to 6 weeks for this to occur; and during this time the patient is on a liquid diet.

The patient eventually got bored with the liquids.  So one night, when he was partying at a friend’s house he got the brilliant idea that, since everyone at the party was having pizza. he would too.

The pizza was hot out of the oven.  He put a slice in a blender and liquified it and drank it with a straw.

The pizza congealed as it got cold, he couldn’t chew it and he couldn’t swallow it and it got to the point that he couldn’t breathe either.  He almost choked to death.  He was rushed to the ER and they had to cut the jaw wires so he could open his mouth and allow them to remove the solidified cheese so he breathe.

His brother, a lawyer wanted him to sue the oral surgeon.  His reason for the suit was the fact that the surgeon did not specifically told him not to eat liquified pizza.  The lawyer thought that it was a winning case; partially I am sure because no one likes dentists and juries tend to side against them.

The only reason the patient didn’t sue was because it would make him look really stupid if he had to testify in court.   The lawyer told him that the insurance company would probably settle and he would never see the inside of a courtroom.  But to his credit he would not pursue the case.

Sounds dumb doesn’t it.  But  juries have awarded money for more ridiculous things than that.

Lawyers make fortunes on malpractice.  In a lot of cases they take home more that the injured party.  They get a fee of 30 to 40 percent and collect fees and charges above and beyond.

It has to stop.


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