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PHOTOS: healers who harm

Newsweek, September 28, 2010

For more than 20 years, trial lawyer Rick Boothman defended doctors and hospitals in malpractice lawsuits. The job taught him plenty about the disconnect between the defensive behavior practiced by the medical establishment and the humane treatment patients want. So when the University of Michigan Health System needed a new in-house attorney in 2001, Boothman made an offer: hire me and revolutionize your approach. We’ll be up front with patients when medical errors happen, and we’ll pay quickly when a case warrants it, rather than dragging everybody into court. “It’s the decent thing to do,” says Boothman. A new study published in August found that since Michigan adopted Boothman’s program of disclosure and compensation, lawsuits have declined and legal-defense costs have dropped by 61 percent. There’s no proof that acknowledging mistakes led directly to savings, but it didn’t cause a malpractice frenzy either. “The sky doesn’t fall in when you are open and honest,” he says.

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