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May 23, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-05-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Michigan Daily TU: Getting what you pay for
Edited and managed by Students at the With this piece, the Da"iily
University of Michigan initiates a weekly column re-
served for the discussion of . y
tenant issues and complaints
Friday, May 23, 1975 and the programs of local ten- X-
ants' rights organizations. Any
News Phone: 764-0552 group or individual feeling abus-
ed or victimized by Ann Ar-
bor's uniquely lucrative hous-
ing industry is invited to sub-
mit material for future c o 1-
Ha~nd dryers harsh- blow-

ment has once again extended the wet hand of in-
justice to its book-browsing patrons by tearing out the
washroom paper towel dispensers and replacing them
with electric hand dryers.
Certainly enough hot air finds its way into the un-
inspiring edifice hideaways and hallways without a fur-
ther intrusion into the excretory enclave.
For decades the paper folds served an invaluable,
therapeutic purpose, providing the kind of manual exer-
cise crucial to the maintenance of muscle tone and bod-
ily well-being, and giving the desk-bound UGLIites the
promise of a regular respite from their debilitating drud-
gery. But now those days are gone forever. The wad has
been played out.,
The prospect of a drip-dry denoument to the finals
fanatic's wee hour cold splash in the faceis enough to
dampen the most resiliant of spirits.
WILL BLUNDERS never decease? What further abuses
await the lavatory loiterers? Why not vacuum hoses
in the stalls? Or pay sinks, while they're at it?

TEN YEARS ago, tenants na-
tionwide had very few rights. In
urban and suburban areas, they
suffered from high rents a n d
poor maintenance. In response
to these conditions, tenants
banded together to attempt to
improve their situation. The .Ann
Arbor Tenants Union is such an
organization of tenants.
Since its founding in 1968, the
purpose of the Ann Arbor Ten-
ants Union has been to secure
legal rights for tenants, to im-
prove housing conditions in the
city, and, generally, to be an
effective tenant advocate.
The Tenants Union seeks to
achieve these goals by inform-
ing individual tenants of their
legal rights and by organizing
groups of tenants into locals ac-
cording to neighborhood, land-
person, or management com-
The ultimate goal of this ac-
tivity is to attain the right of
tenants to determine he con-
ditions of their leases (i.e. rent,
duration, right to. maintenance,

etc. . . ) through collective bar; to have the backing of a strong
gaining with their landpersans. tenants' union. The best way to
Given the present housing mar- build a strong tenants' union is
ket, this right is essential if to have the support of every
tenants are to have any control tenant. The landpersons are or-
over their living conditions.
ganized; tenants should be, ta.
AS a tenant advocate, t h e
Tenants Union helps all tenants,
whether it be on an individual Larry Cooperman a n d
or collective basis. The b e s t. Steve Downs are staff mem-
way for tenants to protect their bers of the Ann Arbor Ten-
rights and win furtherconces- hers o nn
sions from their landpersios is ants Union.

Malpractice suits: Legal operations

WITHIN THE past few years,
malpractice suits against
hospitals and doctors h a v e
grown rapidly in both number
and coat. The plethora of law-
suits have grown so costly, that
the entire practice of medicine
in America may be significant-
ly altered if action is not im-
mediately taken to alleviate the
malpractice crisis.
During the past 5 years,
claims of malpractice against
doctors have more than doub-
"In the case of neg-
ligence, t h e courts
have a moral duty to
compensate the vic-
tims of malpractice.
The courts, however,
must be able to distin-
guish between failures
due to genuine negli-
gence and those that
occur despite c o n-
scientious m e di ca l
led in frequency. In 1969, St.
Paul Fire, the largest malprac-
tice insurer, had claims pend-
ing against 1.in every 23,doc-
tors insured. By 1974, it h a d

grown to 1 doctor in every 10.
The size of claims has also
increased drastically. In 1969,
the average claim, including
settlement expenses, was $6,705.
By 1974, that average had climb-
ed to $12,534.
Prior to 1974 the largest mol-
practice award in Illinois had
been $534,000. Last year, t h e
biggest award in that state was
$2.5 million. In California, there
were 30 awards of over $300,000
each in 1974, and half of those
topped the $1 million mark.
THE IMMEDIATE c o n s e-
quence has been an astronomi-
cal rise in the cost of malprac-
tice insurance for doctors and
hospitals. The Argonaut Insur-
ance Company, the second larg-
est malpractice insurer, cur-
rently charges as much as $14,-
329 for malpractice insurance
for "high risk" professionals,
such as orthopedic surgeons.
Argonaut now proposes prem-
ims that would range up to
$45.000 a year for orthopedic
In Chicago, Children's Me-
morial Hospital has just had its
malpractice insurance prem-
ims increased by 650 per cent.
Mirhael Reese Medical Center
of Chicago has had its prem-
inms increased 500 per cett. In
New York, 23 hospitals are fac-
ed with a 600 per cent increase
is malpractice costs.
This, of course, must be pas-
sed on to the patient. Patients
in Michael Reese will pay an
additional $12 per day for their
rooms just to cover the cost of
malpractice insurance.
Certainly, the cost problems
faced by doctors and patients
are of vital concern. Yet, the
malpractice crisis has already
beein to affect other aspects of
health care and the medical
MANY DOCTORS are becom-

ing reluctant to try new yet
risky procedures which might
provide a cure for diseases
which are now considered incur-
Increased numbers of doctors
are now practicing defensive
medicine. This practice includes
taking additional lab test and
X-rays, as well as ordering ex-
tended hospital stays in order
td avoid charges of negligence
in malpractice suits.
The cost of defensive medi-
cine adds an estimated 10 per
cent to the cost of a medical
bill. Caspar Weinberger, Secre-
tary of HEW, has estimated that
"high malpractice insurance
premiums and the defensive
medicine that results costs the
public between 3 billion and 7
billion dollars a year."
There are several reasons for
this increase in the frequency
and costs of malpractice suits.
There is a "malpractice men-
tality" among many patients, a
result of sympathetic j u r i e s
rewarding plaintiffs excessive-
ly high sums of money. Increas-
ing numbers of plaintiffs are su-
ing for injuries they contend oc-
curred a decade or more ago.
ST. PAUL FIRE paid $107,-
590 in 1969 to settle claims bas-
ed on 1969 incidents. By 1974,
the insurance company had
paid, or had claims pending
worth 513,603,410 - all based
on 1969 incidents.
Lawyers must accept much of
the blame for the malpractice
crisis. Because lawyers charge
a contingent legal fee, the laiuge
amounts that have been award-
ed by juries have tempted more
lawyers, as well as patients, to
file suits. "Shrewd" lawyers-
who sense the possibility of a
large malpractice award, can
cajol their clients into asking
for increases sums o fmoney;
their lawyer's fee will increase
in turn.

Malpractice suits are also
due in part to a "Marcus Wel-
by" complex, which leads pa-
tients to expect perfect results,
and a growing consumer de-
mand for accountabiliy.
As in all professions, s in c n
error occurs. In the case of
negligence, the courts have a
moral duty to compensate the
victims of malpractice. T h e
courts, however, must be able to
distinguish between fail-ires due
to genuine negligence and those
that occur despite conscientious
medical care.
THERE ARE a growing num-
ber of physicians who see pa-
tients as potential law suits. Ac-
cording to Dr. Hushang Javid, a
cardio-vascular surgeon at
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's
Medical Center in Chicago, "a,
doctor deals with life and deatsh
situations every day. He has to
be free to think of only o n e
thing - the health of th pa-
The diagnosis and repair of a
bodily function is subject to
many conditions and alterna-
tives, some dictated oy nature,
some by environment, and many
incapable of being recognized or
defined by the most searching
and astute diagnosticians.
It sho'ld be incumbent uron
the courts to make it clear ┬░hat
medicine is not an exact sci-
ence. Diagnosis and c-re is
based on the best prudent judg-
ment that modern scienific re-
search can offer. Perhaps fifty
years hence, our present medi-
cal practices will be looked
spon as we now look upon the
covered wagon as a means of
TO HALT the stampede of
claimants, a quid-nro-go'i doc-
trine could be established where-
in the attorney for a plaintiff,
as well as the plaintiff, wottid
be held liable for all damages

and losses sustained by a doctor
if he is found innocent of negli-
gence in a court of iaw. If fac-
ed with such a law, perhaps
lawyers would only agree to ac-
cept clients whose claims of
negligence were sound ones.
Laws prohibiting the contin-
gent legal fee should be passed.
This is a contract where a law-
yer does not charge his client
for his services unless an award
is made. If an award is given,
the lawyer takes a portion of
the award as his share.
Limits on the amount of mo'-
ey that can be awarded by<a
court should be established. in-
diana and Idaho, for instance,
recently set $500,00 and $100,0Rt
ceilings, respectively. Such ceil-
ings may serve to lesser t he
growing numbers of lawyers and
clients who are currently being
tempted by the huge moetary
awards to file suit.
A STATUTE of liisa!ios
should also be established. This
would protect physicians who
used the best available medical
information from being s u e
years later when newer and
more effective treatments are
known. Indiana has recently es-
tablished a two-year statute of
limitations; M a r y I a n d, five
years. Unless such statutes are
established, families of deceas-
ed heart-transplant patients for
example, could conceivably sre
surgeons for malpractice f i v e
years after the transplant sper
ation. Yet medicine s a prac-
tice subservient to the laws of
nature, and it will remain sO
intil a cure for death is fitund.
WHILE recent calls for pro-
fessional and public review pan-
els are noteworthy, they do not
solve the current malpractice
crisis. Unless laws are passed
that would limit the powers of a
voracioss lawyer, the eventual
loser will be the patient.

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