When I first heard about the lawsuit in which Louisiana attorneys sued a hospital system because it didn’t prepare well enough for Hurricane Katrina, I thought they were kidding. Really? Hospitals have to be built to withstand hurricanes and flooding from one of the deadliest and costliest storms in American history?
Now I see the absolute futility in trying to use logic to defend against lawsuits.
Tenet Healthcare has decided to settle the class action lawsuit against it for $25 million.
When the nation’s resources couldn’t even rescue many hurricane survivors, the hospital corporation was sued because of “insufficiencies in [its]backup electrical system” and because it did not have sufficient “plans for patient care and evacuation” during one of the worst hurricanes in the country’s history. The failed levees and the government’s lackluster response are not at issue, though. Plaintiff attorneys called those factors “irrelevant” to the responsibility that the hospital had in the face of the hurricane.
That leaves me wondering. What is a hospital’s duty to patients in the face of a disaster?
I’d ask the lawyers, but I’m sure that no one would answer. And the legal community apparently didn’t set the bar very high for itself during the same disaster. After all, courthouses and law offices in New Orleans were closed after Hurricane Katrina. For heck’s sake, the MAIL wasn’t even being delivered.
The problem is that the civil legal system works retrospectively, saying that “if only you took these measures, the injury would not have occurred” or “if only you hadn’t done this, the injury wouldn’t have occurred.” Of course, it is easy to determine what should or should not be done after the fact. Law is the ultimate Monday Morning Quarterback. I have never seen an attorney issue a press release stating that liability should never ensue if a person or corporation takes or avoids certain measures.
So what can we do prospectively to prevent similar lawsuits against hospitals in the future?
Not defensive medicine … defensive corporate action plans, of course.
I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone really needs to pay hospitals a lot more for providing health care.
After all, in the event of an invasion from outer space, it’s going to cost a heck of a lot of money to have laser canons mounted on top of every hospital in the United States to defend patients from aliens who are hell bent on sucking out the brains of infirm humans with extra-terrestrial soda straws.