Hospitals That Do It Right

Some health care providers are starting to get it.  When you mess up, fix it.  Don’t hide.  Don’t cover it up.  Don’t blame the patient.  Just do the responsible thing and fix it.

Today’s Wall Street Journal  writes about the relatively recent phenomena of hospitals that not only step in and make a fair payment to a person who has been harmed by negligence but go a step further and (a) figure out how and why the error happened and (b) put measures in place to prevent future errors. 

This is absolutely wonderful, and shows that the tort system works.  The purpose of the system is not just to compensate victims of negligence but also to deter future harm.  Other things being equal, wrongdoers who fail to take steps to deter future harm will be hurt in the marketplace.  Thus, the reasonably prudent person who is in the position to cause harm takes steps to prevent harm from occurring.  That means they take advantage of the every error to analyze what they can do to prevent future harm.  And they try to work out something with the victim of that error before litigation, saving everyone transaction costs and potential harm to reputation.

We had the experience recently with a non-medical concern.  An organization messed up and a child died.  Rather than react as so many potential defendants would act, they stepped up to the plate and resolved the matter short of litigation.  They took steps to solve the problem that caused the death, not only in that location but all other locations where they provide services.  And then they publicly honored the family that suffered the loss.  This group did exactly what responsible people do when they cause harm, and the family remains a proud supporter of the group’s efforts in our community.

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