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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Red Tape And Coffins

Betsy Newmark links to a Washington Post article by David Brown discussing legal liability, bureaucracy and the inability to improvise in a crisis. One incident cited in the article may well have directly caused someone's death:
Five days after the hurricane, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official ordered Mark N. Perlmutter, a 50-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Pennsylvania, to stop treating patients on the tarmac of the New Orleans airport because he had not filled out the proper paperwork. He protested, explaining that the woman he had just diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis might die without immediate intravenous fluids and insulin. But he was led away. The official said to him, "We cannot guarantee tort liability protection," Perlmutter told me yesterday.

After learning that on-site certification wasn't yet possible, the doctor was allowed to return to the tarmac and get his medical instruments. The woman, who was semi-conscious when he'd first seen her, was dead, Perlmutter said.
The comments on the post are excellent. I think this is a factor that should be taken into account on tort reform. Regulations and licensing are important, because when we have an abundance of resources they limit deaths by ensuring a minimum standard of qualifications. No one in their right mind would want to take off in an aircraft with a pilot who was not trained and licensed on that particular model.

But when you are up in the air in a damaged aircraft with two disabled pilots, a person with some flight training may be your best bet. Emergencies are emergencies. If either our regulations, law and culture can't take that into account then we are in big trouble.

Yeah, socialized medicine. That'll fix everything.
Oh, that reminds me. Carl was posting on socialized medicine a day or two ago, and I had a hilarious link from Canada on the bird flu. Chicken soup, no less! I have to dig it up and post the two together.
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