Big Government to the Rescue

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Big government loves it when the public feels threatened.

In November, the institute of Medicine in Washington revealed that up to 98,000 Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors. This number is alarming—even though it represents less than a third of one-percent chance of dying from such an error.

Nevertheless, President Clinton and members of Congress called for mandatory reporting of medical errors. A new government agency will collect and manage these records and set national goals for patient safety. States will probably have to create their own agencies to collect information and enforce safety standards.

Never mind that such reporting will probably do more to scare doctors into not trying experimental treatments than it will to prevent errors. The point is that the Institute of Medicine—a quasi-governmental agency—has served its master well. It has stirred up inordinate fear and given the government an excuse to expand its power. It won't be long before Washington uses the information it collects to justify further regulation of the physician-patient relationship.

Just one more lesson in how Washington expands its authority into every nook and cranny of our daily lives.