April 21, 2005

The Best Medicine & Etc.

Happiness makes you healthy. I'm going to try to remember that when I'm reading the news, because it's always better to live to fight another day. Also, it irritates your enemies, which can only increase your happiness ;)

Turns out that a pregnancy hormone reduces breast cancer risk. As the article points out, the protective effect has been strongly associated with a pregnancy before the age of 20.

Also, if you were now or ever had been under the misconception that abortion is related in any way to breast cancer, that claim has been completely discredited. Though you would no longer be able to find that out by visiting a government health information website, because it's now administration policy to make unpleasant facts disappear from their sites.

Being a little overweight isn't really a health risk, after all. A study indicated that while obesity may increase the risk of death, being slightly overweight actually seemed to decrease those chances. But as the article points out, health is a complex issue with many contributing factors.

Canada has approved a marijuana-based painkiller and the over the counter morning after pill.

Great news for people with Type 1 diabetes, as researchers announce that insulin inhalers should be available within a year. Type 1 diabetes is due to heritable, rather than lifestyle factors, and is also referred to as juvenile onset diabetes. Sufferers may need as many as 6 insulin injections in a day, and the new treatment is expected to reduce that number to 1 or 2.

An unspecified number of alleged doctors (Were they all doctors, or just a few and a bunch of other people in white coats?) showed up at the Capitol to protest the lack of tort reform. Dwight Meredith explains the true cost of malpractice here, explodes some common myths, and talks about the cost of torts in Texas. Via a Kevin Drum post, some 2003 data on the effectiveness of capping damages.

The tort reform issue, medical or not, boils down to a simple issue for me. Will the proposed solution do anything to reduce the frivolous lawsuits that cause all the ruckus? It seems obvious that capping damages, which are only awarded when a judge and jury finds that the defendant has been harmed, does nothing to reduce the number of actual lawsuits filed. After all, if you're filing a case just to get a payoff, 2/3 of 250K is better than nothing.

In the UK, if you're found to have filed a frivolous case, you have to pay all the legal fees. I'm told that works pretty well. But what if the problem isn't necessarily with the filees? This 2002 report by Public Citizen seems to indicate that a significant bulk of claims are filed against repeat offenders. Slightly over half of all medical malpractice claims are made against doctors with two or more claims, and fully 16.5% of those claims are made against those with four or more claims.

Slightly over ten percent of claims involve the 0.4% of doctors with five previous claims. Disciplining or removing from practice even this small margin of repeat offenders would have saved over four billion dollars in the course of a decade.

If you really want to reduce malpractice costs, I think there are only two things you can do that don't penalize people who've been the victims of incompetence or negligence. One of those things is to address the frivolity of a suit at the filing stage, and the other is for the medical community to police their own and start stripping licenses when they find dangerous hacks in their midst.

Posted by natasha at April 21, 2005 01:05 AM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | Technorati links |