Jan 03

New Years’ Resolutions

databy Wayne W. Oliver, Executive Director, Patients for Fair Compensation     Originally published in teh Atlanta Journal Constitution on January 2, 2014

Each year, millions of us make so-called “New Years’ Resolutions” or a list of things that we would like to accomplish in 2014. While most of us include things like “eat less and exercise more” on our list of resolutions, this year, my New Years’ Resolutions include:

Advancing Intellectual Honesty:  I work regularly in the public arena. I write and speak a great deal about the need for legitimate healthcare reform including transforming our medical malpractice litigation system. In advancing a proposal to eliminate all medical malpractice lawsuits and replace it with an administrative solution similar to workers’ compensation, there has been wholesale fabrication and outright deception involved by some of those opposed to the issue. In discussing public policy options, there needs to be transparency and those engaged in the debate should have facts versus conjecture.

Gallup, the polling people, asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of various professions. In the 2013 poll which was taking in December, Americans view nurses, pharmacists, grade school teachers and physicians as having the highest ethical standards. Lobbyists, members of Congress, and car salespeople sit at the bottom of the list.

And, there is a reason: Americans perceive (correctly) that lobbyists often lack of intellectual integrity. They will say and do whatever is necessary to pass or oppose a piece of legislation. Hopefully, in 2014, we can have an open and honest discussion of the issue(s) without innuendo, personal assaults, bogus data and creative non-studies.

Being Bold and Innovative:  Changing the status quo is difficult. It is easy to do what we’ve always done. Casting a bold vision of how things could be considerably better is a tough sell. Delta Airlines has a new ad campaign that features the voice of actor Donald Sutherland. The ad thanks the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart and Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin for their bold, innovative leadership. The ad states: “You can’t cling to the past if you want to create the future.”

The same is true for our dysfunctional medical malpractice litigation system. If we cling to the past, Georgians who are injured because of a medical injury will continue to not be compensated. If we cling to the past, medical injuries will continue to occur because best practices won’t be implemented due to the fact that discussing them would lead to “discovery” and the filing of yet another medical malpractice lawsuit. If we cling to the past, hundreds of Georgians will continue to not have access to health justice. If we cling to the past, physicians will never stop practice defensive medicine and healthcare costs will continue to soar because physicians will continue to fear malpractice lawsuits and will continue to order unnecessary tests and procedures.

The elimination of medical malpractice lawsuits is the only way to create a new and brighter future for physicians, their patients, and employers who are actually paying for escalating health insurance premiums.

Taking the High Road:  When life presents us with multiple paths, we have been taught that we should take the higher road. However, sometimes it is considerably easier to be negative; to “sling mud;” to say or do something negative or mean-spirited.

Taking the higher road requires being thoughtful and respectful. Taking the higher road teaches us to be considerate of the opinions of others. Taking the high road also forces us to survey the entire landscape, not just look at our immediate surroundings.

In terms of transforming Georgia’s medical malpractice litigation system, we should strive to take the high road. We should be thoughtful, respectful, deliberative … and we should take the high road.

So in 2014, I am going to strive to be intellectually honest.  I am going to try to be bold and innovative. And, when presented with multiple paths, I hope to take the higher road.

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