Epstein on Health Law and Policy

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Richard Epstein is not known for his work on health law and policy. But in over 50 years in academics, he has written two books, 63 articles and book chapters, and a staggering number of op-eds and blog postings on a diverse array of health law and policy topics, ranging from medical malpractice and pharmaceuticals to obesity, organ sales, patient dumping, and privacy. This article focuses on Epstein’s contribution to three areas of health law and policy: medical malpractice, pharmaceuticals, and health reform. It shows that Epstein’s take on all three issues flows directly from his general worldview about the superiority of private judgment and voluntary transactions compared with coercive top-down command and control schemes.

Medicine is much too important to be left to doctors. It’s ok to let them treat patients on an individual basis, but when you are trying to put together systems and to develop incentive structures to deal with problems and moral hazard, adverse selection, trying to figure out on the margin how much you invest in specialists, how much you invest in generalists, how you put the whole ball of wax together, what you do with immigration policy and so forth, what is so clear to me is that the standard form of medical education today does not give doctors the tools to handle these questions. But it often gives them the confidence to believe that they can. And the overconfidence coupled with the lack of information is, I think, an extremely dangerous and potent thing. (Epstein , 11:38)

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