Yesterday, Governor Napolitano vetoed a measure passed by the Arizona legislature that would have heightened the burden of proof required to assert a claim against physicians arising out of poor emergency medical care. If Governor Napolitano had not vetoed this legislation, a patient victim would have to present “clear and convincing” evidence of medical malpractice when submitting claims against emergency physicians. Allegedly, fewer physicians practice emergency medicine because the standard of proof requires a showing of negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Has anybody thought that changing the burden of proof for emergency physicians will somehow lower insurance premiums for emergency care doctors? What doctors are not practicing emergency medicine? Are bad physicians who have harmed patients going to be encouraged to continue bad care because they know that patients who receive poor care will have difficulties suing them?
I find it interesting everytime I hear the argument that making access to the courts more difficult will improve patient care. Providing access to the courthouse has been a cornerstone method for citizens to help ensure the safety of our products and services. In my opinion, preventing access to our courts has the exact opposite effect. Citizens will be less likely to have safe high quality medical care. If we want a medical system that rewards mistakes, then lets close the courthouse doors. On the other hand, if we want to enjoy the highest quality medical care and research in our community, then we need to make sure that physicians and pharmaceutical companies who make mistakes and cause patients irreparable harm are held accountable.