John Edwards Has Already Changed Health Care!

The health care plan presented by the John Edwards presidential campaign has received a good deal of approbation from the advocates of government-run health care. Paul Krugman, for example, advises that the Edwards plan “gets it right.?  But we don’t have to wait for Edwards to to become President to see him change health care. He has already done it.

Kevin, MD links to a post at Classical Values that discusses some startling physician comments regarding the increasing frequency with which obstetricians revert to Cesarean sections. Specifically, the docs blame the increase on personal injury lawyers, and they repeatedly mention John Edwards by name:

Edwards specifically has made much of his fortune suing doctors for not performing C-sections, arguing that they help prevent cerebral palsy in children … Now doctors do C-sections “just to be safe,? meaning safe from lawsuits, though the procedure is not so safe for mothers.

Although there is no credible scientific data showing that the incidence of cerebral palsy is in any way affected by the C-section choice, Edwards was very successful in convincing juries to punish physicians for not taking that option. Thus, he was much feared by the medical community:

Medical malpractice was his specialty, and he reportedly tried more than 60 such cases, winning more than $1 million in over half of those. Most involved Ob/gyns. Indeed, he was so feared, according to the Center for Public Integrity, “that doctors would settle cases for millions of dollars rather than face him at trial.?

In addition, they began to take pre-emptive action to protect themselves from potential lawsuits involving Edwards or one of his accomplices:

Cesareans in the U.S. had begun dropping in the late 1980s, going as low as 22 percent of deliveries. As Edwards and friends spread fear across the Ob/gyn land, rates began to climb again. The rate is now 30.2 percent, a record high for the nation.

So, the supporters of John Edwards can rejoice in the news that his contribution to health care is limited to the realm of the potential.  He has already changed it—for the worse.

Comments 8

  1. Morris Berg wrote:

    Hold on . . . hold on.

    “Although there is no credible scientific data showing that the incidence of cerebral palsy is in any way affected by the C-section choice, Edwards was very successful in convincing juries to punish physicians for not taking that option.”

    I agree that if true this is a great point: no credible evidence for causation => no case. Now let us apply the same standard to your argument.

    Where is the credible scientific evidence that malpractice concerns generally [and the more amazing claim - John Edwards specifically] caused c-section rates to increase?

    And no – for the 167th time – the plural of anecdote is not data and just because your docotor buddy (or a doctor buddy of your doctor buddy) says something is “the cause” of his behavior DOES NOT make it “credible scientific data.”

    If you are going to make a claim about causality – whether you are John Edwards or Kevin M.D. – you need to offer evidence to support it.

    To cite the lack of “credible scientific data” in part of a broader argument that lacks “credible scientific data” is beyond the realm of sad irony. I know that they do not teach formal logic in med school, but jeebus. C’mon boys . . . CAUSALITY . . . show me CAUSALITY.

    Posted 14 Jun 2007 at 11:53 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    Hi Moe,

    I see those metacarpals are still in olympic condition. I’m not sure it’s possible, if you discount the statements of the docs doing the procedures, to show direct causality. But the increase was caused by something, and I don’t think there’s a credible explanation that does not include the role of trial lawyers like Edwards.

    By the way, here’s a good write-up on the connection between malpractice caps and lower insurance rates.

    Posted 14 Jun 2007 at 5:14 pm
  3. Matt wrote:

    That “write up” doesn’t prove that at all. It might have some validity, if rates weren’t being lowered in all states.

    Unless you’ve got some belief that physicians are entitled to low insurance and insurers are entitled to profits no matter what. In that case, why not just get immunity.

    But glad you admit that you couldn’t show causation. That’s the first step toward acknowledging the truth!

    Posted 18 Jun 2007 at 3:35 pm
  4. Catron wrote:

    But glad you admit that you couldn’t show causation.

    I merely stated that you can’t show causation if you ignore the primary victims (i.e. the docs). In other words, Morris set the evidence bar absurdly high.

    That’s the first step toward acknowledging the truth!

    I’m delighted to see that you know “the truth.” Perhaps you’d like to share.

    Posted 18 Jun 2007 at 3:50 pm
  5. Matt wrote:

    The primary “victims”? The physicians? Are you joking? You have no clue about the facts of any of Edwards’ cases. For all you know, they were all correctly decided. Surely knowing the facts of the cases before making broad pronouncements based on them isn’t setting the bar very high.

    In fact, I doubt you even know the number of CP lawsuits v. the number of CP kids. Does anyone? And yet you’re issuing blanket condemnations?

    It appears you’ve not got any bar to cross before reaching your conclusions, which is even less than what you accuse the juries in Edwards’ case of having.

    Posted 19 Jun 2007 at 8:06 am
  6. Matt wrote:

    Seriously, take a step back and pretend you’ve never heard a word about any of this. Then read your original post. Isn’t your first question what the evidence in the cases you’re referring to actually showed?

    And really, any discussion of “victims” in the medical malpractice context has to start with the patients. Second, you can argue the insurers, who actually are paying the money. Then we get to the physicians.

    Posted 19 Jun 2007 at 8:11 am
  7. Catron wrote:

    You’re off in the weeds. Remember, we’re talking about out-of-control litigation. The initial victims of this litigation are the defendants (i.e. physicians and hospitals). You and I are the indirect victims, because predatory lawsuits put upward pressure on health care costs and cause the providers to practice defensive medicine (rather than the kind that focuses exclusively on the needs of the patients). The increase in C-sections is but one manifestation of defensive medicine.

    Posted 19 Jun 2007 at 10:22 am
  8. Matt wrote:

    Define “out of control litigation” and “predatory lawsuits”. How many lawsuits do there need to be that you won’t call them “out of control”? Who defines what is “predatory” and what isn’t? Just the defendants? I guess one can just as easily say we need to cap physician salaries to reduce the “out of control malpractice” and “predatory physicians”, can’t they?

    As for defensive medicine, surely someone like you can see the silliness of using unquantifiable terms to dictate public policy.

    You really have no idea what is causing the increase in C-sections, just as you have no idea what an “acceptable” level would be. Until you can define that, you’re really not offering much meaningful.

    Posted 19 Jun 2007 at 4:11 pm

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