We've been reading a lot these past couple of weeks about Dr. Jayant Patel, a.k.a. "Dr. Death," a surgeon who, according to press reports, took his deadly incompetence through the health care communities of New York, Oregon, and finally Australia before the powers that be got around to pulling his license.
Patel spent 12 years playing doctor with Kaiser patients in Portland before he packed up and moved to Australia. While he was in the Rose City, he apparently engaged in all sorts of shenanigans, including performing a colostomy backward. He allegedly was not above falsifying patients' charts, either.
So far, I haven't heard or read a word of logical connection being made between this case and Ballot Measure 35, the proposal that Oregonians narrowly voted down (.pdf) last fall. It would have capped awards for pain and suffering at the hands of quacks at $500,000. It was a bad idea, but the insurance industry, which runs medicine in this country, almost conned the electorate out here to fall for it.
As I said back then, the real problem with medical malpractice is not the lawyers. It's the medical profession, whose will and ability to police itself are every bit as lame as those of the bankrupt Catholic Church in its darkest era. When trusted professionals are maiming and killing through negligence or worse, the answer is not to move them to another state or country. The answer is to be sure that they never harm anyone else, anywhere, ever.
When the medical profession cleans up its act, maybe I'll start thinking about "tort reform." But not until then.