Deny and Defend

We are all aware that our society is driven to lawsuits  but why is this?  I’m sure there are many theories out there but my theory is that the continual denial of any wrongdoing (by total mistake, ignorance or malice) and the inability to say “I’m sorry”, “you’re right, I made a mistake, how can we fix this?” or any acceptance of responsibility leads to anger and frustration on the part of the parties harmed which then leads them to the court – the last resort for some sense of reality check on what really happened.

What a waste of time, talent and money – money that could be used for good if only people (agencies) could accept responsibility and be accountable.

Working in Labor and Delivery for many, many years, knowing that at any moment a disaster could happen which would change the lives of the family, I saw every birth as a miracle – for many reasons.  Knowing that one moment in time a disaster could happen which was no fault of anyone but just happened in the birth process, I was amazed that any child came out alive (or mother for that matter.)  Yet, Obstetrics is one of the highest areas of litigation and also has some of the highest rates for malpractice insurance.  Yes, there is malpractice but not every thing that goes wrong is caused by malpractice or misjudgment on the part of the healthcare providers.  Things just happen.

In recent years I have been the involved in several situations in which I was told “you should sue” but I don’t want to sue just because I could.  I wrote letters to those involved and received apologies, acceptance of responsibility, strategies to improve and re-train the healthcare staff in appropriate practices and documentation.  That’s all I wanted – I just didn’t want others to experience the same things that we experienced when they could be fixed.  Why sue when people accept responsibility and make efforts to improve?

I am writing this post because I recently submitted an inquiry on the Washington State Auditor’s Citizen Hotline.  This past year the Washington State Auditor did a so-called audit on the Developmental Disabilities Administration.  This audit (DD Audit) was riddled with inaccurate and incomplete data and opinions yet was treated as “fact” in recent legislation.  It is shameful that this document was used in our legislative process for decision making.  Many of us attempted to point out the glaring errors in the DD Audit but apparently it is assumed the State Auditor has the facts and there is no need to question reports that are generated.  Interesting to note though is that our state paid over $400,000 for a local company which also subcontracted to an out-of-state entity, well known across the country, to be biased in assessing needed supports for our most vulnerable.

In submitting an online Citizen’s Hotline referral, I was hoping there may be some new insight into this issue and I may receive some sort of response which acknowledged the glaring errors.  I was so wrong.

I have attached the response letter that I received.  It is a great example of the “deny and defend” policy.  I now understood why people are driven to sue – I was more than angry – giving the Auditor an opportunity to accept responsibility and look at the errors and admit there were mistakes only lead to more denial.  The people in the auditor’s office cannot even see the facts or respond to questions that were asked.

I am more than disappointed with this – I am ashamed that we allow our government to treat us this way and am ashamed that those in our government cannot accept responsibility that they are given.

Deny and Defend policy hurts us all.  The medical field is learning this and is trying to change it’s ways.  By being honest and trying to promptly disclose medical errors and offering earnest apologies together with fair compensation, the medical community is hoping to restore integrity.  The hope is this will dilute the anger that is built up in those wronged by continually being told inaccurate and incomplete information which will in turn reduce lawsuits.

I would hope our government agencies take notice of this too.

Auditor response to citizen complaint