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June 30, 2006

Friday Headlines

The size of the malpractice verdict was stunning: $28 million, one of the biggest in Central Florida history. Now, as the losing attorneys work to knock that down, they're also trying a rarely used and very aggressive tactic: attacking individual jurors and accusing the whole panel of prejudice. Yikes. Protect your kneecaps, kids. Read [Orlando Sentinel]

Better late than never: An Arkansas doctor is being investigated by the state's medical board after 10 of his patients died from lethal mixtures of drugs or overdoses of prescription medicines. Read [WIS-TV]

For the past 20 years Urban Ministries Open Door Clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina has provided free health care and other services to uninsured patients. Dr. Donald T. Lucey says his work there has rejuvenated his love of medicine. He sent out a letter to 230 retired and soon-to-retire physicians hoping they would join him to work at the clinic. The letter mentioned a $100 malpractice insurance option for volunteers in free clinics and the "exceptionally small" history of malpractice claims brought against them. So far, two doctors have responded. Maybe the replies got lost in the mail. Read [Raleigh News & Observer]

June 29, 2006

CostRx: Kill all the tort reformers?

Atla We stumbled upon this interview with Ken Suggs, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, who says the malpractice crisis is more about politics than a real crisis. Read it here.

Below, some choice quotes:

"It keeps coming back on a national level because Senator (Bill) Frist wants to run for president and this is a way for him to raise money."

"If you look at payouts in medical malpractice cases, which (consumer advocacy group) Public Citizen did last year, payouts have remained flat for more than 10 years, and over the last four years have been dropping."

"The only places where people have trouble finding an OBGYN to do any procedure are in rural, poverty-stricken areas, where the OBGYNs don't want to live and practice."

"The person who is hurt, who has had their life changed for the much worse, certainly don't they deserve some kind of compensation for putting up with that? Or are we just going to say, "No, all we care about is economics and insurance premiums and making insurance executives rich, so that (injured) person is just going to have to suck it up." That's not the American way. The American way is to make the person who did the harm responsible for all of the harm, not just part of the harm."

Read [United Press International]

June 27, 2006

Dr. Chicken Scratch and Cap Blues

Couple Says Texas Doc's Mistake Caused Wife's Hearing Loss . . .  but lawyers won't touch the case because they say state caps make it a losing proposition. Catch-22 people. Health courts, anyone? Read [CBS11TV.com]

Washington State says no more illegible, handwritten prescriptions. The land of Bill Gates only wants them typed or printed. Read [The News Tribune]

The average physician's net income declined 7 percent from 1995 to 2003, after adjusting for inflation, while incomes of lawyers and other professionals rose by 7 percent during the period, according to a new report from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Any docs or lawyers or others want to chime in on this one?
Read [National Center for Policy Analysis]

June 26, 2006

Cutting Services and the Doc Shortage

News_9 "He's that gynecologist you feel comfortable with that you go to for years and years. You trust him. You don't have to worry if this man is going to take good care of you and your baby." But he's not delivering babies anymore so grab the yellow pages. Read [WBKO-TV]

Forget being a doc.... "The way to go is to be a PA (physician's assistant). You get all the cool medical work and none of the responsibility. You make a very nice salary and after the Dr. who you work under pays all the malpractice insurance, you're making just about as much as he is." Read [KSL-TV]

There are plenty of vivid comments on that KSl site. One post says the doctor shortage is a myth.: "The American Medical Association limits the number of doctors that can be trained in the US in order to maintain their monopoly pricing power. There are many qualified applicants that are turned away." Can anyone respond to that? The reader commentary page stems from an article on a doc shortage in Utah. Read

June 21, 2006

Don't You Go Testifying And ER Blues

Images2_1 Judge issues a restraining order against a national medical association who a doc says has been smearing him, because he served as an expert witness in a $40 million med-mal case. Read [The Advocate]

Logjams in ERs strain hospitals: Why? Dr. Thomas R. Russell, executive director of the American College of Surgeons, says its research shows that surgeons are becoming more reluctant to perform on-call emergency services and are given discounts on liability coverage if they limit or stop performing them altogether. Read [Baltimore Sun]

Doctors Told to Stop Shaving Surgical Sites AND ... More Talk About The ER Crisis and Declining Care. "There were 113.9 [Emergency Department (ED)] visits in 2003, for example, up from 90.3 million a decade earlier. At the same time, the number of facilities available to deal with these visits has been declining. Between 1993 and 2003, the total number of hospitals in the United States decreased by 703, the number of hospital beds dropped by 198,000, and the number of EDs fell by 425." Read [Poynter Online]

June 20, 2006

Georgia Malpractice Reforms Miss Mark

Images1_1 The politicos promised that rising medical malpractice insurance rates would be suppressed under new Georgia state laws—a $350,000 limit on jury awards for malpractice victims' pain and suffering, tougher standards for expert witnesses in malpractice trials, and new incentives for patients to settle out of court—BUT six of the state's top insurers of doctors and dentists have increased their liability rates since the reforms took effect in 2005. Where's the drawing board? Read [Houston Chronicle]

June 19, 2006

The Senate Talks Health Courts

Images_5 We're pleased to spread the word about some action in the Senate. Forget the dead-in-the-water, social wedge issues. We're talking bi-partisan legislation that would create pilot projects for special health courts.  The bill (S.1337), known as the Fair and Reliable Medical Justice Act, has been introduced by Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Max Baucus (D-MT).  The purpose of the bill is to restore fairness and reliability to the medical justice system by fostering alternatives to current medical tort litigation, including the creation of special healthcare courts, that promote early disclosure of health care errors and provide prompt, fair, and reasonable compensation to patients who are injured by healthcare errors.  Read more about the bill here.

Common Good—one of our strongest partners since we launched in 2005—is developing models for expert health courts based on research conducted at The Harvard School of Public Health and funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Read more about the project hereView the health court brochure here.

Support for health courts has been increasing every day, but Common Good needs your help.  Get the word out: 

1.         Send a note to your senators, especially if they are on the Health Committee.  Download a draft letter here in PDF or Word document format.  Click here to find the contact information for your Senator.  Click here to find out if your Senator is on the Health Committee.

2.         Notify your colleagues and friends by e-mail or fax and ask them to send letters to their senators.  Click on the envelope icon on the top right of the page to email this page.

Nice work, Common Good.

June 16, 2006

Politics and the New England Journal of Medicine

Wessmall We welcome another fine guest blogger to the ThisMakesMeSick Family. Dr. Westby Fisher practices near sweet home Chicago and finds time to pen a shrewd blog here. He also runs MedTees.com, a site that provides a supportive,  humorous sanctuary from the day-to-day drudgery of long-term illness.

Enough talk, read his piece on Sen. Hillary Clinton's and Sen. Barack Obama's "Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform." Dr. Wes asks why the medical press jumped on it, while the political hacks did not.

In case you missed the most recent issue of the New England Journal of MEDICINE's (the capital font is for emphasis) publishing of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid perspective piece entitled "Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform" on their proposal for medical liability reform, it can be found, available for free and to all (unlike most of the other peer-reviewed research studies and reviews published by physicians in the Journal) here. Interesting that this piece was displayed so prominently in the medical press but has failed to be picked up by the political press. As you read this piece ask yourself, why does this piece appear where it does?

When you combine politics and medicine as in this piece's title, you get on-the-Hill "position speak" which coins such terms as "patient safety" and creates the unspoken bind that any alternative position is "against patient safety." This is typical political Hill strategy but now it inserts itself into a health-care community not seasoned to this type of manipulation.

Continue reading " Politics and the New England Journal of Medicine" »

Splitting Pills and Marriage Bills

News_8 Insurer: Half a tablet easier to swallow for patients. Liability fears, anyone? Read [Naples News]

Study Ties N.Y. Med Mal Premiums to Liability Awards, Not Cycles. FYI: This was published in the INSURANCE JOURNAL. Read

Fears of a nationwide doctor shortage galvanize U.S. med schools Read [Sacramento Bee]

Malpractice? Man suing doctor over alleged affair with his wife while they got marriage counseling Read [Chronicle Herald]

June 14, 2006

Lawyer Ordered to Pay Doctor

A physician owned and governed medical professional liability insurance company in Florida checked the mail and found a law firm check. It's about time. Back in August 2005, a Broward County Circuit judge ruled in favor of a doc insured by the group, dismissing a medical malpractice claim and ordering the plaintiff's attorney to pay the defense attorney's fees and costs. Adios, frivolous lawsuit. Read [Business Wire]

Doc and Hospital Reunion: OB/GYN Dr. Donovan Dietrick had run his won practice since 1984. But by 2004 he was dropping $130,000 bill for med mal insurance. And his income wasn't rising . The payments he typically received from health insurers for delivering a baby had declined from around $2,300 in the early 1990s to around $2,000 last year. So, he closed up shop, joined a hospital and stopped delivering babies. Read [Baltimore Business Journal]

About TMMS

  • ThisMakesMeSick answers renowned medical inventor Dr. Robert Fischell's wish to spread awareness (and outrage!) about the medical liability crisis that's ruining our healthcare system.

    Learn more...

What makes you sick?

  • We want to hear your thoughts and personal stories.

    Have you...

    • Fretted over rising malpractice premiums?

    • Signed a truly unbelievable medical liability waiver?

    • Faced a frivolous lawsuit?

    • Dealt with a doctor or a hospital who wouldn't take responsiblity for their actions?

    • Practiced defensive medicine?

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You don't say...

  • "This election destroyed a popular Karl Rove myth. The truth is that trial attorneys are winning, attacks on trial attorneys are backfiring and opponents of the civil justice system are losing."

    The CEO of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America said.

  • "We have discovered that virtually all patients are willing to sign a contract in which they agree not to sue their doctors on frivolous grounds."

    Jeffrey Segal, M.D, a board-certified neurosurgeon and the founder and president of Medical Justice Services, Inc., said.

  • "Low-risk obstetrics has been done here for 60 years, but not anymore."

    Carl Hanson, chief operating officer of the county-run Minidoka Memorial Hospital in southern Idaho hospital's, explained as they get out of the baby business. Read

  • "I have children, and I don't know where they're at."

    Rosalinda Elison, a former patient at the UC Irvine Medical Center’s fertility clinic, said after learning that that her eggs and embryos had been stolen and implanted in another woman who then gave birth to twins.

    Read more You Don't Say, here.

Crisis by numbers:

  • $4.6 million

    New York state grants available to expand the use of electronic medical records. Such initiatives have been hailed nationally as a way to cut medication errors, save money and improve patient safety. LINK

  • $700,000

    Amount raised by Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform to oppose malpractice limits in Arizona. LINK

  • $450,000

    Amount the Arizona Medical Association says Arizonans for Access to Health Care has raised to decide whether to push for montetary limits on lawsuits. LINK

    Read more CRISIS BY NUMBERS, here.

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