Book Says Med-Mal Legislation Discriminates

January 10, 2003

A new book on medical malpractice in Texas, by Fort Worth attorney Dan Barrett, claims Republicans are discriminating against the elderly and the poor in bills to be considered in the upcoming legislative session.

According to Barrett, his book, Cheaper to Kill Than to Maim: A Patient’s Guide to Medical Malpractice in Texas, says capping non-economic damages and reducing contingency fees to attorneys would prevent the most vulnerable members of society from being compensated for death or injury at the hands of health care providers.

“If you tell a person who is retired or doesn’t make much money that his only value is lost future income, you are telling him his life isn’t worth much,” Barrett said in a statement. “Republican lawmakers have written bills to do just that.”

Because medical malpractice cases are expensive to litigate, Barrett contends, reducing fees to attorneys would cause many to quit taking cases and close the system to those who don’t have money to pursue a claim.

These restrictions on the ability of Texans to sue are meant to reduce medical malpractice insurance rates. Barrett charges that medical errors and investment losses by insurance companies are the problem, not frivolous lawsuits as his Republican adversaries contend.

“It’s inhumane to equate people’s suffering with the profit potential of institutional health care companies,” Barrett said. “People are hurt or killed every day in this state, and only lawsuits can compensate the victims.”

Barrett points to a Dallas Morning News investigation that showed the Texas Board of Medical Examiners disciplines few doctors who injure or kill patients. He also quotes an Institute of Medicine finding that 98,000 deaths and 1.2 million “adverse medical events” in this country are caused by errors. The book’s title, Cheaper to Kill Than to Maim, refers to a provision in Texas law that allows a greater recovery by someone who is maimed and lives than one who dies at the hands of a medical provider.

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