Today, TMZ published an exclusive which cites a Nevada coroner’s report claiming that in 2007, Jackson’s now famous doctor, cardiologist Conrad Murray (who had offices in Texas and Nevada) mistakenly punctured the heart of a 67-year-old Las Vegas man during a procedure—and that the medical misstep was a cause in the man’s death. But because the case (like all medical malpractice cases) would have been so extremely expensive to pursue, the family never filed suit. Consequently, we’ll never know if this case may have been enough to raise red flags for future patients like Michael Jackson.
So what else does this sad tale tell us? Well first, both states in which Dr. Murray practiced (here, here) have enacted horrible so-called “tort reform” laws that establish severe legal roadblocks in the paths of injured patients and their families (as in the example above), while doing nothing to bring down insurance rates for doctors. In fact, the Texas laws, admitted one cardiologist to the New Yorker magazine, reduced injured patients' abilities to file malpractice suits “[p]ractically to zero.” Moreover, medical boards do almost nothing to weed out the small number of doctors who commit the most malpractice both nationally and in states like Nevada, and Texas.
Here is the other thing it tells us. Contrary to popular myth, it is very difficult to bring a malpractice case. In fact, even though 98,000 people die in hospitals each year, only about 1 in 8 ever file a claims for compensation. That means incompetent doctors and unsafe hospitals are rarely held accountable for medical malpractice.
Hopefully, people will start acquiring a greater understanding of how dangerous it is to restrict the legal rights of patients to bring malpractice actions. And most importantly, they'll see that we’ll all be better off if more emphasis is placed on patient safety—not limiting patients’ rights.