Letters to the Editor

From Oct. 29

Val Torrens

Issue too complex for ballot box

I am usually diametrically opposed to Val Torrens’ opinion by default, but I have to agree with her about her views on Washington’s tendency to govern by initiative. Initiatives 330 and 336 are good examples of how not to legislate. Both of these initiatives are immersed in technical details that could easily overwhelm the average citizen. I have read both initiatives, twice, and I am still confused about which would be a fair and reasonable compromise between an injured patient’s right to fair compensation and the medical profession’s limit of liability. It is in this context that Val makes a good point.

This is an important issue regarding public health and safety. At what point do we determine what is the will of God and what is the result of negligent health care? If a medical professional makes a mistake that costs someone’s life or their ability to enjoy it, what is fair and reasonable compensation? How much money is a spouse worth? What is appropriate compensation for a birth injury? What are all of the possible risks associated with a medical procedure? How do we know that a patient really understands those risks? Which factors are under a doctor’s control? Which ones are not? How much should a lawyer get paid? How much profit is reasonable for an insurance company? What happens if an insurance company won’t approve a procedure and the patient is injured or dies as a result? Is the caregiver the nurse, the doctor or the insurance adjustor? Who’s at fault? How much risk is each party responsible for? Why is the grieving widow driving a Corvette this week? Who understands how these factors should be considered in the larger context of comprehensive health care reform? Who understands the real implications of each initiative on the ballot? Whose position is correct? Why?

I regard myself as a well educated and seasoned professional, but I am not a professional lawyer, doctor, nurse or insurance underwriter. This is an issue for the legislators of this state to resolve in the best interests of the citizens of Washington. It has broad implications that must be explored by those with the appropriate background to discover all reasonable options that will fairly consider the needs of our citizens and not just the desires of a few political action groups. That is why we go to the trouble of electing state representatives in the first place. They don’t have to be experts in every field, but they need be the leadership to ensure that the right mix of professionals can formulate and present sound and reasonable alternatives to consider and form into law. It is unrealistic to ask my electrician, my auto mechanic or my barber to make decisions of that magnitude.

Our legislators can make this a milestone for constructive health care reform instead of a collection of initiatives that will only circulate in the courts for years. They could be the shining example for a nation in policy gridlock on this issue. They need to seize that opportunity for our sake at least.



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