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This week, The New England Journal of Medicine published
some troubling statements made by John McCain on his ideas about how to reform
the American health care system. The
Journal’s editors, interested in hearing from each of the candidates on their
planned health care policies, asked both McCain and Obama for an overview of
their positions.

For the most part, McCain’s comments are not particularly startling. He sends much of what little energy he has
left trying to convince us that government intervention in the health care
system is a scary prospect that will deny us health care options, raise our taxes,
and create “long waiting lines” at the hospital and doctors offices (does he
actually believe we don’t have long waiting lines now?). The key to “real reform,” he says, “is to
strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and provide American families with
more choices for high-quality and affordable care.”

More choices, eh? Sounds good; I’m a big fan of choice.

But, what will be my choices in a John McCain
administration, if my doctor (who I’ll be really great friends with by the way,
thanks to McCain legislation) accidentally removes the wrong kidney, leaving me
on a dialysis machine to wait for years for a transplant that might never
arrive? Or just happens to give my wife
the wrong blood type during a routine operation, which accidentally kills her?

The answer, straight from the horse’s mouth:

Our tort system is an invitation to endless, frivolous
lawsuits by trial lawyers who exploit patients and physicians alike.
I understand that the fear of lawsuits not only forces doctors to
perform unnecessary tests but also often poisons the relationship between
patients and doctors. That is why I have been a consistent advocate
of medical-liability-reform legislation, and I believe it must be a
central aspect of any health care reform effort. –John McCain

Liability reform must be a central aspect of any health care reform effort, he says. What this
really translates to is that medical liability reform is easier to accomplish than real health care reform, and so on
McCain’s watch, what we’re going to get is a health care system that’s still
broken, and patients who have no (or un-viably limited) legal recourse when
they get seriously injured because of it.

This is not giving us choice; it is taking away patients’ rights
to challenge the health care system when it does us preventable wrongs due to
poor oversight, careless organization, and subpar communication. Leaders of both parties should make certain
that those who have been harmed by others should be able to obtain compensation
for those harms. Doctors who make mistakes must accept personal
responsibility for those mistakes, rather than seek government bailout, in
the guise of “tort reform” or “caps” on cases, to help them. We
cannot let a McCain administration force us to pour our money into a broken
health care system while he gives it carte blanche to stay that way.

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