KMSB "Fox-11 Forum," Sunday, 6/26/11, 7:30 AM & KTTU "In Focus," Sunday, 7/3/11, 10:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Leonard Scheff, a Tucson attorney interested in medical malpractice reform.

Scheff says the present common law system of tort-based liability for medical malpractice is inefficient, illogical and unjust for medical providers and patients.  He says less than 20-percent of premiums paid by doctors for malpractice insurance actually go to injured parties.  He says most of the money goes to lawyers, expert witnesses and insurance company overhead and profits.  Plus, he says, the notion of “fault” may depend on what definition a jury might believe.  He says plaintiffs may then receive no compensation and a doctor may be forever stigmatized unfairly.  

Scheff says he thinks a reform suggestion made by Dr. Albert Ehrenzweig at UC Berkley in 1963 has merit.  He says Ehrenzweig proposed a no-fault system of liability for hospitals similar to workmen’s compensation. A schedule of payments to the injured would be set, based on the nature of the injury and its impact on the patient’s life.   Scheff says the system could start with HMOs and they be extended to doctors.   He says it would eliminate the need for malpractice claims because patients would be assured that if they suffered a medically-related injury they would be compensated for lost wages on a fixed schedule and would be assured of future medical treatment for the condition.  He says for those eligible for compensation a schedule of benefits for pain and suffering could be added as a substitute since children and/or retirees might not have “lost wages.”   

Scheff says this system would not only save money but would also likely improve the standard of care because the small number of medical providers who services were consistently substandard would be quickly identified and “weeded out.”