The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

27 February 2003

Malpractice makes malperfect

Doctors on strike? Not here, not yet. Still, Donald Palmisano, MD, president-elect of the American Medical Association, brought his traveling show to Oklahoma City yesterday. About 600 physicians showed up at the Capitol to protest the current legal climate, "strewn with frivolous lawsuits and exorbitant jury judgments," which has caused malpractice premiums to skyrocket in recent years.

Dr Palmisano's state-level counterpart, Dr Jack Beller, called for immediate action:

We are beginning to see things happen in Oklahoma that have happened in other states and we must convince our Legislature that if nothing is done this session, dire results of an out-of-control medical liability system may happen here.

By no particular coincidence, a bill is before the Legislature to cap pain and suffering awards at $250,000 and limit contigency fees for trial lawyers.

And speaking of trial lawyers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association was on hand to challenge the doctors:

As insurance companies try to make up for revenues lost through bad investments, they have increased their practice of denying claims and denying necessary medical procedures, and they've worked harder to defend bad doctors. These actions drive up the cost of litigation.

The most telling comment, though, came from an Edmond physician:

There's certainly a cost in the United States to our 'always-blaming-someone' society.

Not just in dollars, either. I do not understand the mindset that believes medicine to be somehow equivalent to automotive mechanics, that any problem can be fixed if you replace enough parts.

On the other hand, I suspect that a substantial number of malpractice suits are brought by the same people who ruin their cars because they won't spend $75 for diagnostics when the little warning light comes on.

Posted at 7:22 AM to Soonerland

TrackBacks if any:

The last paragraph says it all.

Posted by: Steve at 7:28 AM on 27 February 2003

I think $250,000 for "pain and suffering" is overly generous. Money alone is not a pain reliever. At the same time, it gets under my skin to hear doctors whining about how high their malpractice insurance premiums are. Boo hoo. When I see doctors 10+ year old rattle-trap cars, starving, losing their homes, etc then I'll have some sympathy.

Posted by: Lynn S at 7:50 AM on 27 February 2003

I don't need to have sympathy for my doctor, I only need to have confidence in him.

A doctor who could get your sympathy, Lynn, wouldn't get my confidence.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 11:17 PM on 27 February 2003