Waiting Room Death Case Settles
A while back we covered the story of Esmin Green, a Brooklyn woman who died on the floor of the waiting room at Kings County Hospital Center (here's my post, here's Justinian's post). Her estate's civil case against the hospital has been settled and the family is to receive $2 million from the hospital (in NYT ).
The criminal case is still pending. From the family's lawyer:
“What remains most important to this family is the criminal culpability for those responsible for what happened and those who attempted to cover it up, which continues, after all this time, to remain under investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation,” Mr. Rubenstein said in a statement. “In no way does this settlement affect that investigation, and the family remains adamant in its demands that anyone who committed a criminal act with regard to the death of Esmin Green or the attempt to cover it up be prosecuted criminally to the full extent of the law.”
The comment section of the NYT blog got me to thinking. Most reasonable people truly get the importance of being able to sue when hospitals, entrusted with human lives, commit egregiously dangerous and negligent acts. They understand that Esmin Green's is not a frivolous case (most of them do, anyway. One guy called Green's case frivolous and got chewed out by just about everyone else on the blog).
But something sometimes gets lost in translation when we start talking about tort "reforms" that would prevent families from holding wrongdoers accountable for these types of acts in the future. Proponents of things like health courts and caps on non economic damages say that such so-called "reforms" would reduce costs, but all it would do is reduce accountability.
On the other hand, we could seriously save costs if cases like Ms. Green's were allowed to move forward, thus creating incentives for hospitals to promote safer, more efficient patient care. This would also draw attention to the need to provide hospitals and doctors with adequate resources to do this successfully. As observed by one of the NYT commenters:
Unfortunately as a medical student, I see similar cases all the time in the hospital. Its not because of apathy or maliciousness, but rather because of too few resources and too many patients. I’ve vowed to do my best by my patients and to always attend to their needs promptly, but I know its probably a losing battle. — Shamik
Case-in-point, Ms. Green's death brought much-needed attention to the horrible treatment low income psychiatric patients receive, which (directly or indirectly) spurred the hospital system to action. As stated in the NYT article:
The hospital system said it had undertaken numerous reforms, including construction of a new Behavioral Health Center Pavilion; the addition of more than 200 doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other staff members; a reduction in crowding in the psychiatric emergency room; and reduced reliance on hospital police to manage patients in crisis
Especially when you're talking about hospitals that serve low income populations, it only makes sense that weighty incentives need to be in place to ensure proper care. What we DON'T need is to start making it easier for hospitals to neglect patients by reducing the likelihood that it will cost hospitals much money to pay for their bad practices. What we DO need is to continue expressing our outrage at dangerous inadequacies in the way care is provided, followed by demands that more resources be directed towards improving patient safety.
Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:37 AM, May 28, 2009 in Health Care | Insurance Industry | Medical Malpractice | Medical Malpratice | New York State | Tort "Reform" & Class | Tort Reform Movement's Concept of "Over-victimization"
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