Punishing doctors is the wrong way to reduce mistakes...


March 31, 2002

Punishing doctors is the wrong way to reduce mistakes

The Sun's editorial "Rx for lawmakers: Tighten medical oversight" (March 19) urged the General Assembly to pass legislation that would lower the burden of proof in disciplinary actions against physicians and reduce the role of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, which administers the peer review of physicians in the disciplinary process.

On behalf of the two-thirds of all practicing Maryland physicians who are its members, MedChi is seeking to modify the flawed legislation aimed at making it easier to prosecute physicians. That's because achieving more disciplinary actions is simply the wrong goal.

The right goal is to reduce medical errors. MedChi is urging legislators to recognize that punishing physicians is the wrong approach to reducing errors, and that trying to achieve more disciplinary actions moves us away from the right goal.

Don't just take MedChi's word for it. The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine has urged professional societies and regulators alike to end the "culture of blame" that permeates health care and impedes efforts to identify and remedy medical errors.

Maryland has a great opportunity to launch a new approach. But that won't happen if legislation makes the situation worse by focusing on ways to stoke the "blame game," such as lowering the burden of proof in disciplinary actions and shaking up a peer review process that ranks Maryland third in the nation in the rate of serious disciplinary actions based on allegations of substandard care.

There is no question that harm too often results from medical errors, in Maryland and in every state.

Yet it is a well-known maxim in medicine: "First do no harm." Legislators should apply the same principle in this instance by focusing on the right goal, and not making the current process worse.

Dr. Hilary T. O'Herlihy


The writer is president of MedChi.

Methadone clinics imperil the peace of Pikesville

Residents and store owners in south Pikesville are greatly disturbed by a proposal to locate two for-profit methadone treatment clinics near the intersection of Slade Avenue and Reisterstown Road ("Residents want health officials to deny methadone licenses," March 20).

They believe the clinics would serve 300 to 600 people who would come from Baltimore City by bus or subway. Residents of the immediate area, who are predominantly senior citizens living in homes and condominiums in which they have substantial investments, resent this intrusion into their neighborhood.

No one disputes the need for methadone treatment centers, but the choice of the two Pikesville locations defies logic. And the fact that they would be situated close to each other is outrageous.

This plan should be stopped in its tracks.

Albert E. Denny


The ends of drug testing don't justify the means

I am appalled at the arrogance and the "ends justify the means" attitude displayed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in addressing expanded drug testing in public schools ("Justices may favor wider drug testing of students," March 20).

The school district was "trying to train and raise these young people to be responsible adults," Justice Scalia argued. But neither schools nor teachers "raise" young people. That role is performed by parents or others in the home environment.

Perhaps we should stop using the term "in loco parentis" when referring to schools and substitute "in loco police."

Mark E. Romanoff


City has plenty of room for more than one theater

There can never be too many legitimate theaters in a city that aspires to be "on the map" culturally ("Next stage uncertain for grande dame," March 19).

The Mechanic Theatre is a wonderful venue, but has not kept up with the times. If it is faltering, it is not because of the threat of the Hippodrome Theater being revitalized.

And a little competition might add to the excitement of downtown nightlife.

Marylu Manning


There is no reason we can't have more than one professional theater in Baltimore. Indeed, more theaters and cultural attractions can only be assets to Baltimore's revitalization and its economy.

So let the Mechanic Theatre live on along with the newly-revived Hippodrome Theater.

John Libertini


Ending aid to Israel is the path to peace

Will someone tell President Bush that terrorism will cease when there is peace in the Middle East? And when will that be? When Israel ceases occupying Palestinian territories, and agrees to a two-state solution to the conflict with Jerusalem as a common capital. It's not that complicated.

For decades, the United States has cheerfully acquiesced in Israel's repressive policies that make a mockery of the ideals on which that state was founded. We have blandly looked on as the beneficiaries of our largesse bulldozed homes, made arrests without charge, imprisoned people without trial and shot at civilians.

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