Examining these claims in a lengthy article in the Cornell Law Review and a shorter article in Regulation, a University of Illinois health-law scholar finds most of the assertions to be without factual basis.
"Health care is substantially more dangerous than it should be," David A. Hyman, Illinois professor of law and of medicine, concludes in articles co-written with Charles Silver, a law professor at the University of Texas. But malpractice litigation has little to do with the continuing failure of medical providers to deal effectively with the erratic quality of health care.
"In the United States, it is true both that one can obtain the best available care for most maladies and that health-care errors are the eighth leading cause of death, ranking ahead of AIDS, motor vehicle accidents and breast cancer," Hyman and Silver wrote. For example, hospital-acquired infections are so common that one estimate indicates that proper hand washing by health-care workers alone would save 20,000 lives a year.
In addition, according to the articles, health-care providers "routinely omit indicated procedures of known value, frequently perform treatments that are unnecessary and inefficacious, and employ practice patterns that vary widely and for no good reason. Adverse drug events are distressingly common. Tens of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical services whose value is questionable or non-existent."
Hyman, who has an M.D. and law degree, teaches health-care regulation and civil procedure. He attributed inconsistencies in health care in part to medical education and culture. Medical schools "do not teach modern quality assessment and improvement t
Contact: Mark Reutter, Business & Law Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign