No emergencies — just emergency physicians, MedCity Weekend Rounds June 19, 2009

New protection for emergency physicians, the realities of branding a hospital, and fresh thoughts (and funding) from the federal government on health care.

White Coat’s Call Room — the author of which is going through his own malpractice lawsuit — has picked up and run with the discussion we started over whether emergency physicians deserve the civil immunity that states have started to give them.

Here’s his response to why emergency docs should be insulated.

Granting medical providers immunity would throw everyone’s legal rights out the window, right? No profession should have immunity for their actions, should they? Funny. Judges have complete immunity for their actions. No one even questions the concept of “judicial immunity” any more. One quote I found here showed why the US Supreme Court feels that judicial immunity is important:

To render a judge liable to answer in damages to every litigant who feels aggrieved during the course of judicial proceedings, “would destroy that independence without which no judiciary can be either respectable or useful.” Bradley, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) at 347.

It is OK for a judge to be grossly negligent and wholly biased in their duties. Litigants have no recourse whatsoever. The judges are immune from liability. At some point our nation is going to have to decide whether poor access to care, long waits for care and declining overall health is preferable to tort reform.

It’s a refreshing perspective that will hopefully contribute to some day, at some point, outlining the true impact and causes of malpractice litigation in this country. Malpractice rates are high because of the amount of litigation, but also because of the poor decisions malpractice insurers made in their businesses. The percent of malpractice judgments is abysmally low, but is that because of frivolous lawsuits or cynical defense attorneys?

And, in the end, what kind of incentive does a financial penalty provide when it comes to reform — and what will happen when someone takes that incentive away?

I don’t expect all those answers this week. But here are a few things I did learn, as I look back at the week in MedCity.

Have a great weekend.