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Thread: Doctors To Rally At Capitol/Doctors, irate at rising malpractice insurance, to rally at Capitol

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    Doctors To Rally At Capitol/Doctors, irate at rising malpractice insurance, to rally at Capitol

    Doctors To Rally At Capitol
    Associated Press

    March 26 2003

    Doctor's offices across Connecticut were expected to close Wednesday as physicians converge on the state Capitol to demand changes in medical malpractice insurance.

    Doctors say rising malpractice insurance premiums are forcing many out of their profession. They are seeking legislation that would cap jury awards for pain and suffering at $250,000.

    "People have finally reached the breaking point," said Henry Jacobs, an obstetrician and head of the Hartford County Medical Association. "They're panicked."

    The issue puts the spotlight on flaws in a dysfunctional health care system, raises familiar litigation reform issues and pits doctors and lawyers against each other in a legislative debate.

    Doctors accuse lawyers of exploiting failings in the medical profession, while lawyers claim they are protecting victims of botched medical procedures by holding doctors accountable.

    Rising malpractice insurance is particularly burdensome as doctors' incomes fall due to payment reductions enforced by managed care systems, physicians say.

    "I blame managed care more than I blame professional liability," Jacobs said.

    Obstetrician-gynecologists are particularly vulnerable to lawsuits, he said.

    "Lawyers will parade a child in a courtroom," Jacobs said. "Whether an injury was caused by a doctor doesn't matter. It's an emotional thing."

    Neurologists who treat disorders of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, including seizures, strokes and multiple sclerosis, are often accused of failing to diagnose a condition, said Michael Krinsky, a neurologist based in Bloomfield and Vernon.

    He said he expected an increase of 74 percent in his malpractice insurance rate in the past year. It instead came in at 130 percent, he said.

    "We all need tort lawyers. No one knows when we'll need protection," he said. "We need to reform the tort law system so it's not the Wild West. We need to get rid of these windfalls to the attorneys."

    Jacobs said doctors are quitting specialties and becoming general practitioners or are leaving the profession.

    "A number of them who've gotten close to retirement age and decided they're packing it in," he said. "There are a number of doctors who as of next year will not deliver babies."

    Trial lawyers and patients' advocates say limits on jury awards would deny victims the right to compensation for medical procedures that go horribly awry.

    Chris Bernard, president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyer's Association, said a cap would be "unfair to individuals who suffered serious injury due to medical malpractice."

    Insurance rates have gone up because of sharply declining stock values, not jury awards, he said.

    "There's not a single case of a runaway jury," Bernard said. "The jury listens to all the evidence."

    Lawmakers will not likely enact legislation setting a cap on noneconomic damages, said two legislators who sit on committees that oversee medical malpractice bills.

    Democratic Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a member of the Public Health Committee, and Republican Rep. Robert Farr, a legislator on the Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers will instead seek another solution.

    "We don't want a situation where babies are no longer delivered in Connecticut," Fleischmann said.

    Malpractice insurance is a national issue. Compromise legislation is being hammered out in the U.S. Senate to double the limits on jury awards, to $500,000 for noneconomic damages, such as compensation for loss of limb or sight. It would still allow awards up to $2 million in cases of severe disfigurement or death.

    Surgeons in West Virginia earlier this year halted elective surgeries to protest high medical malpractice insurance rates. Lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Bob Wise enacted changes, including caps on lawsuit damages.
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press


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    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Doctors, irate at rising malpractice insurance, to rally at Capitol

    Doctors, irate at rising malpractice insurance, to rally at Capitol
    By Stephen Singer, Associated Press, 3/25/2003 19:21
    HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Doctor's offices across Connecticut were expected to close Wednesday as physicians converge on the state Capitol to demand changes in medical malpractice insurance.

    Doctors say rising malpractice insurance premiums are forcing many out of their profession. They are seeking legislation that would cap jury awards for pain and suffering at $250,000.

    ''People have finally reached the breaking point,'' said Henry Jacobs, an obstetrician and head of the Hartford County Medical Association. ''They're panicked.''

    The issue puts the spotlight on flaws in a dysfunctional health care system, raises familiar litigation reform issues and pits doctors and lawyers against each other in a legislative debate.

    Doctors accuse lawyers of exploiting failings in the medical profession, while lawyers claim they are protecting victims of botched medical procedures by holding doctors accountable.

    Rising malpractice insurance is particularly burdensome as doctors' incomes fall due to payment reductions enforced by managed care systems, physicians say.

    ''I blame managed care more than I blame professional liability,'' Jacobs said.

    Obstetrician-gynecologists are particularly vulnerable to lawsuits, he said.

    ''Lawyers will parade a child in a courtroom,'' Jacobs said. ''Whether an injury was caused by a doctor doesn't matter. It's an emotional thing.''

    Neurologists who treat disorders of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, including seizures, strokes and multiple sclerosis, are often accused of failing to diagnose a condition, said Michael Krinsky, a neurologist based in Bloomfield and Vernon.

    He said he expected an increase of 74 percent in his malpractice insurance rate in the past year. It instead came in at 130 percent, he said.

    ''We all need tort lawyers. No one knows when we'll need protection,'' he said. ''We need to reform the tort law system so it's not the Wild West. We need to get rid of these windfalls to the attorneys.''

    Jacobs said doctors are quitting specialties and becoming general practitioners or are leaving the profession.

    ''A number of them who've gotten close to retirement age and decided they're packing it in,'' he said. ''There are a number of doctors who as of next year will not deliver babies.''

    Trial lawyers and patients' advocates say limits on jury awards would deny victims the right to compensation for medical procedures that go horribly awry.

    Chris Bernard, president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyer's Association, said a cap would be ''unfair to individuals who suffered serious injury due to medical malpractice.''

    Insurance rates have gone up because of sharply declining stock values, not jury awards, he said.

    ''There's not a single case of a runaway jury,'' Bernard said. ''The jury listens to all the evidence.''

    Lawmakers will not likely enact legislation setting a cap on noneconomic damages, said two legislators who sit on committees that oversee medical malpractice bills.

    Democratic Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a member of the Public Health Committee, and Republican Rep. Robert Farr, a legislator on the Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers will instead seek another solution.

    ''We don't want a situation where babies are no longer delivered in Connecticut,'' Fleischmann said.

    Malpractice insurance is a national issue. Compromise legislation is being hammered out in the U.S. Senate to double the limits on jury awards, to $500,000 for noneconomic damages, such as compensation for loss of limb or sight. It would still allow awards up to $2 million in cases of severe disfigurement or death.

    Surgeons in West Virginia earlier this year halted elective surgeries to protest high medical malpractice insurance rates. Lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Bob Wise enacted changes, including caps on lawsuit damages.


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