Medical Malpractice Reform Urgently Needed
January 2, 2003
Across the country, patients are being denied medical treatment because of an out-of-control tort system. Juries willing to award sky-high payouts to plaintiffs poison the well for patients everywhere. Because of sky-high malpractice insurance, many doctors are threatening to strike or close shop.
- In Pennsylvania, only two insurers write medical malpractice policies, down from 10 five years ago, and they are refusing many new subscribers, limiting coverage, dropping doctors and hiking rates.
- According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, 1,100 policies covering up to 3,000 doctors have not been renewed this year.
- Across the country, OB-GYNs are refusing to deliver babies, neurosurgeons won't see trauma patients, radiologists won't read mammograms and orthopedists are staying out of the operating room.
- In Las Vegas, a pregnant woman can call 50 obstetricians before finding one willing to accept a new patient.
- In Arizona, a baby was born on the side of the road after her mother had passed her community hospital, where the insurance crisis had closed the maternity ward.
- As in West Virginia, trauma centers in Nevada, Mississippi and other states are in danger of being downgraded or closed because doctors steer clear of high-risk practices.
Now that the GOP holds the Senate, maybe there will be meaningful tort reform, including a desperately needed limit on punitive-damage awards in medical malpractice suits.
Source: Editorial, "Lawyers vs. Patients - III," Wall Street Journal, Thursday, January 2, 2003.
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