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January 12th, 2003:

A little taste of tort reform

This Chron editorial raises some interesting points about the tort reform – namely, medical malpractice damage award caps – which is being proposed by Governor Goodhair:

[A] look at the data does not confirm the charge that the wave of malpractice lawsuits is mostly frivolous and the damages unwarranted. On the contrary, the evidence strongly suggests that the medical malpractice insurance crisis is at least partly due to actual malpractice and the failure of the medical profession to adequately supervise its members.

Just under 35,000 licensed physicians practice in Texas. Formal complaints against Texas doctors have nearly doubled since 1996, and so has the number of investigations opened by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

In the first three months of 2002, the board began 1,725 investigations, discarding thousands of other complaints. Yet during the same time period, the board took only 187 disciplinary actions against doctors, from revoking licenses to assessing modest fines.

At its December meeting, the state board revoked or required the surrender of 10 doctors’ licenses, but allowed three of the doctors to continue to practice on probation. It suspended 15 doctors, but allowed nine of them to keep treating patients. It restricted 13 doctors, reprimanded four and fined 15.

The lack of will by professional organizations such as the AMA (and, in fairness, the American Bar Association as well) to mete out real discipline to its truly bad apples is nothing new. One does wonder why the good apples, who are the ones that are really getting screwed, don’t make a bigger stink about it.

By the way, there have been a total of about 30 lawsuits since 1997 resulting from the HMO reform law that was passed over Dubya’s objections. The “flood” of lawsuits that the hysterics cried about has been a trickle.

The Chron goes on:

The 14th Court of Appeals, which sits in Houston, just issued an opinion guaranteed to make matters worse. In overturning multimillion-dollar damages against a hospital awarded to a brain-damaged patient, the court ruled that hospitals are not liable for botched operations just because they know a doctor is taking drugs and allow him to keep operating.

In order for hospitals to be liable for damages, the court ruled, patients must prove that hospital officials actually wished them to be harmed. If not overturned by the Texas Supreme Court or the Legislature, this ruling is practically an invitation to lax supervision leading to malpractice.

Now that’s really awful. I wish I could find out more about this – I struck out on Google. Anyone have some more information about this case?

And a parting shot:

When Rep. Tom Craddick visited the Chronicle’s Editorial Board last month, the presumptive speaker of the Texas House was asked if the Legislature might ease the malpractice emergency by trying to get bad doctors out of the medical corps.

The Midland Republican said, “You can’t legislate morality.” This no doubt will come as a surprise to some of Craddick’s supporters in the House, who hope to use the Republican Party’s ascendancy to advance their moral agenda.

Yes, let’s do keep this in mind during the predictable outcry that will follow when the Supremes get around to ruling on the constitutionality of Texas’s sodomy law. The Lege is perfectly happy to legislate morality when it suits its purposes.

Old ways, modern times

Here’s a fascinating article about a Mennonite community in Mexico and how it has adapted its traditional ways of making a living by farming and dairy farming in an increasingly competitive environment. Check it out.

The many faces of diversity

O-Dub recently mentioned the topic of blogger diversity (here and here) in reference to a recent blogger get-together in San Francisco. Oliver noted, in response to this approving InstaComment, that there wasn’t much in the way of racial diversity in those photos, which sparked some heated comments in his posts.

There are several things that I’d like to mention here. One is that my first thought, upon looking at the names that accompanied the pics, is that (to my eyes, at least) there wasn’t a whole lot of diversity of political opinions in the attendees there. All of the names I recognized belonged to right- and right-libertarian political types. If there were any liberal bloggers there, they were either unphotographed or unknown to me.

I mention this not because I think it casts any aspersions on those who were there but just to make the what-should-be-obvious point that “diversity” means different things to different people. As well it should, since it covers a lot of ground. InstaPundit was referring to diversity of professional backgrounds. Oliver was talking about race, and I noticed political leanings. There’s a chart where I work that talks about different kinds of diversity, and it covers about two dozen distinct categories. We all have differences and similarities, and you can find them if you take the time to look.

Secondly, Oliver is speaking too broadly when he says that “bloggers are not exactly the most diverse group racially”. Maybe that’s true of political bloggers (more on this in a second), but we political bloggers sometimes forget that there’s a lot of non-political types out there busily publishing away. The Houston bloggers group has over 90 members, but only about a dozen regularly talk about politics. That’s a pretty small percentage.

(By the way, for those of you who never venture outside the political blogosphere and are thus of the impression that blogging is a mostly male thing, I invite you to read this post, which asks if male bloggers are taken seriously by their mostly-female readers. The question comes to me via Trish .)

Third, I don’t think anyone really knows how racially diverse the political blogworld is. I know of three bloggers on my blogroll who are black, four who are Hispanic, and two who are of Asian or Middle Eastern extraction, but I can’t say for sure that’s the whole total because, well, this is the Internet and you just can’t always tell. Last I checked, that was still considered a feature.

Whatever the status of Political Blogtopia’s diversity is now, I agree with the comment Joanne Jacobs left in Oliver’s first post, which is that it will get more diverse over time since there’s such a low barrier to entry. You just may not realize it right away.

Finally, a question: Has there ever been a blog post which has attracted a comment from Richard Bennett in which he has not acted like a total asshole? See the comments in the second post from Oliver that I linked above for a prime example.