During the State of the Union address, President Obama suggested he is willing to address reform to medical malpractice litigation. This is an important issue to the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and could be a key to the shape of the healthcare reform package after this Congressional term.
Yesterday, NPR ran a story on their website suggesting mediation could be a solution – and that the more information needs to be made available to the public about this option. The NPR piece can be found at http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/01/133399502/first-let-s-blame-the-lawyers. The author, Michelle Andrews, points out that many plaintiffs may not even know the option exists.
Like most disputes, medical malpractice claims can be resolved easily through mediation if all the parties agree to negotiate fairly and in good faith. There are obvious benefits to all the parties – the process is private and confidential; resolution can come about more quickly than through a traditional lawsuit; the process is less costly than litigation; and, if a settlement is reached, the payment is guaranteed to be paid without an appeal.
I agree with Ms. Andrews and the mediator she quotes in her article – an informed patient should suggest mediation even if it is not offered by his or her lawyer. They have nothing to lose but a few hours of their time if the process isn’t successful, and the advantages far outweigh that risk.