Protect Patients Now

Volume 6, Issue 12 December 2011 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Hidden Costs of Medical Lawsuit Abuse
New Good Samaritan Protection Bill Introduced
Reforming Health Care Reform
Happy Holidays from Protect Patients Now

Hidden Costs of Medical Lawsuit Abuse

While the financial costs of our broken medical liability system are sky-high – estimated anywhere between $55 billion and $210 billion per year – the social and emotional costs on physicians and patients are not always as easy to quantify, but just as important nonetheless.

In a recent post on the New York Times blog Well, Dr. Pauline Chen provides a glimpse at how a lawsuit affects a physician, and in turn, his or her patients.

After Dr. Chen was named in a lawsuit that was eventually dropped, she began defensively practicing medicine.

“I froze with fear every time I was asked for my opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan and became a master at evasion, littering my assessments and write-ups with words like “maybe,” “perhaps” and “will await further work-up,” Chen wrote.

A survey last month by the American College of Surgeons found that of out 7,000 surgeons polled, nearly one in four were in the midst of litigation. Surgeons involved in a recent lawsuit were more likely to suffer from depression and burnout, including feelings of emotional exhaustion and detachment, a low sense of accomplishment and even thoughts of suicide.

“Malpractice is at the top of the list of major stressors for most physicians,” said Dr. Charles M. Balch, the lead author and a professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Dr. Chen notes that comprehensive medical liability reform must address both the financial and social costs in order to better serve the critical health care needs of patients. To read more about Dr. Chen’s story, click here.

New Good Samaritan Protection Bill Introduced

Protect Patients Now needs your help in support of an important, bipartisan bill introduced recently in the US House of Representatives.

Contact your Congressman today to ask him to cosponsor H.R. 3586, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, to ensure patients have access to vital, on-site medical services in the wake of a natural or man-made disaster.

As the nation witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters, there was a critical shortage of medical volunteers on the ground to assist those in need. Due to inconsistencies in federal and state laws, these volunteer health care professionals have been turned away or limited in the scope of their assistance because of the threat of medical liability lawsuits.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would help protect medical volunteers from lawsuits during a large-scale disaster, and ensure that vital health care services are available.

HCLA and Protect Patients Now urge our grassroots supporters to contact their Member of Congress today and ask them to sign on to this critical piece of legislation.

Click here to Contact Congress now and ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 3586, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, in order to preserve access to medical care during a federally-declared disaster and protect our critical health care providers from medical lawsuit abuse. Thank you for your continued support of medical liability reform!

Reforming Health Care Reform

As major pieces of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act become a reality this year, many physicians still believe more can be done to reduce health care costs and ensure that vital medical services remain available and accessible to all patients.

A recent study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions put physicians’ concerns in perspective, and noted that 44% of those surveyed believed the Affordable Care Act was a good start.

When asked about the main factors contributing to health care costs, most doctors listed “unhealthy lifestyles” of patients as the main culprit, followed by the fear of lawsuits leading to physicians practicing defensive medicine.

The survey also found that most physicians support medical liability reform. More than three-quarters of doctors surveyed were supportive of a separate court system to settle medical liability lawsuits, and 74 percent said they support reasonable limits on the amount of damages that could be awarded in a medical liability lawsuit as a way of reigning in health care costs.

A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune agrees, and states that the Affordable Care Act falls short, in part because it “doesn’t try to combat abuses of the malpractice system that impose needless costs on everyone.”

While the effort in 2010 to overhaul our health care system may be seen as a good starting point, Protect Patients Now and the HCLA will continue to push to end medical lawsuit abuse and ensure patients have access to quality, affordable health care. To read a report of the survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, click here.

Happy Holidays from Protect Patients Now

With the holiday season and a new year upon us, Protect Patients Now wishes you and your family much health and happiness.

While medical liability reform generated a great deal of attention in 2011, we will closely follow the political developments in 2012 and anticipate a favorable climate for passage of comprehensive reform at the federal level in the near future.

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to working with you in the New Year. Together, we can stop medical lawsuit abuse!


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