"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Monday, August 01, 2005

Lawyers Loving Lawyers, Hating Doctors

I have to admit some serious prejudices with this post. I am married to an OB-GYN. We tied the knot while she was in medical school, so I know what residency was like and how hard it is to be a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist. During residency there were hundred hour weeks. If you look at her compensation during that time, it was probably sometimes less than minimum wage.

In private practice, the money is much better, but there is the constant need to practice defensive rather than optimum medicine and of course, the hours continue to be brutal. After my wife scaled-back to spend more time with our first child, she was still averaging more than 40 hours a week. People who don't live this life can't imagine what an enemy the beeper is and what it feels like to see your spouse called out of bed at 2 a.m. on countless occasions.

The difficulty of having kids and managing a medical career actually prompted us to get out of medicine for a couple of years. My wife felt called back into it after helping a neighbor through a serious health crisis and acting as his advocate with the local medical establishment. This is a calling and a very challenging one.

I mentioned the items above simply to lay the groundwork for my outrage that the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated a law putting caps on pain and suffering damages. They invalidated the law under the rational basis level of scrutiny, which means such a cap is totally irrational as a method of lowering overall costs, ensuring quality care (like keeping physicians in the state), and dealing with skyrocketing medical malpractive insurance rates.

The first impulse is to say that we should simply go ahead and nationalize the practice of medicine and get rid of this headache. We'll accept our physician bureaucracy pay and go on with life. The second impulse seems more appropriate. Let's nationalize the practice of law and take the profit out of this parasitism. After all, the practice of law depends entirely on the existence of a government with a monopoly on the use of coercive force. There's a good case to be made that all the servants of the law should be public servants.

This is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I'd like to see the fatcats who've never held someone's life in their hands sweat a little.

Oh, couple more things. Is it at all worrisome that the two richest men in Texas are trial lawyers who made their money in tort actions? Second, should hospitals start putting up a sign that says, "Cutting into people's bodies with metal instruments is an inherently dangerous business, but the alternative is that you go back to the guy shaking a gourd full of seeds."

UPDATE: Something I forgot to mention. The Wisconsin Court said the statute limiting malpractice pain and suffering damages failed rational basis scrutiny. My constitutional law prof. (a wonderful New York liberal Jewish lady) used to say that to fail rational basis scrutiny a statute would have to declare something on the level of everyone must wear a green shoe on their left foot on odd days of the month. Is a limit on pain and suffering damages irrational like that or is the bar just taking care of itself?


Burwell said...

That is an interesting proposition. I am not for nationalizing (socializing) any part of the private sector, but if one is nationalized, why not both?

You are a law school grad, are you not? What made you decide not to "practice" law?

Hunter Baker said...

I made the distinction for nationalizing the practice of law. It is parasitic upon the existence of the government. The practice of medicine is not.

I went to law school because I wanted to get off the corporate track and onto the political/public policy track. I spent my summers in the right places and boom, it worked.

Jay D. Homnick said...

The animosity between lawyers and doctors has grown to be thoroughly mutual in recent years.

I'm too lazy to do it myself, but here is an idea for someone who would like to explore this territory dramatically. Since Jewish mothers have been pushing their daughters for the last seventy-five years or more to marry lawyers or doctors, the Jewish family would be the perfect scenario.

You have the mother, the two married daughters, and the two sons-in-law, one a lawyer and the other a doctor. Then you have them thrash each other and thrash out these issues. One tablespoon of wit and two teaspoons of vinegar and you're all set.

Hunter Baker said...

There is beginning to be some payback. I know Ob-Gyn's who won't treat the wife or relative of a personal injury lawyer.