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.
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