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Protect Patients Now

Volume 2, Issue 5 MaY 2007 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

CBS Evening News Highlights Patient Access to Care Crisis

CBS News anchor Katie Couric shone a national spotlight on the escalating medical liability crisis in Philadelphia last week and its impact on patient access to care.  Reporting on the closing of the fourteenth maternity ward in the Philadelphia area, Couric began her report with the harrowing account of Melissa Suszynski, whose placenta burst just two weeks before her due date.

“I said, ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I’m bleeding all over the place!'” …[Melissa] was rushed to the nearest hospital, Jeanes Medical Center, just seven miles away. Twelve minutes after she was admitted, she gave birth.

“They said if it was five minutes longer, I wouldn’t have made it; my baby or I wouldn’t have made it,” Suszynski said.

Living close to Jeanes saved their lives. But next week, Jeanes won’t be an option for new mothers: the hospital is closing its maternity ward.

The shuttering of Jeanes’ maternity unit is one of a raft of such closings in recent years. A decade ago, 42 hospitals in the Philadelphia area delivered babies. Jeanes will be the fourteenth to close — that’s one-third of them shutting down. And another hospital, Chestnut Hill, is currently reviewing its obstetrics program with an eye toward closing.

As Ms. Couric noted at the end of her broadcast, the crisis brought on by rising medical liability costs is nationwide, “…whether it’s doctors shutting their practices, maternity wards closing, or patients being unable to get the care they need. So there are too many places like the City of Brotherly Love that need to do a much better job of offering motherly love.”

Read Katie Couric’s full story on the Philadelphia maternity crisis here.

Read more information about the crisis in Philadelphia here.

Personal Injury Lawyers Never Rest

Medical lawsuit abuse is a potentially life-threatening issue for patients.  It’s also an anxiety provoking, costly and potentially career-threatening distraction for doctors. It interferes with the most important business at hand: healing.

For personal injury lawyers, however, medical lawsuit abuse IS their business. It’s how they make their living, and from their point of view, the more lawsuits, and the more opportunities to bring lawsuits, the better.

All of which is evidenced by two recent stories. In Illinois, the State House passed legislation, at the urging of the trial bar, that would broadly expand the definition of “non-economic damages” in some cases. Dr. Rodney Osborn, president of the state medical society, said the bill threatens even the most reasonable limits on non-economic damages and is “clearly an attempt to inflate damages in medical liability awards.” Read the full story here.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to that state’s already relatively modest limit of $500,000 for non-economic damages. Despite the challenge, Ohio lawmakers have defended the legislation, pointing out that reasonable limits on non-economic damages are the best way to lend predictability to Ohio’s litigation climate. Read the full story here.

Clearly, doctors will get no rest – or lasting relief from medical lawsuit abuse — until medical liability reform is passed at the federal level.

Absurd But All Too Familiar

Another story from Ohio demonstrates the absurd lengths indefatigable personal injury attorneys will go to make a case, no matter how ridiculous that case may be. Earlier this month, the Ohio Court of Appeals upheld the sanctioning of personal injury attorney John E. Duda for, among other things, “failing to dismiss this case after learning that [it] totally lacked merit and that his clients did not want to proceed.” [Emphasis ours]

Unfortunately, what’s all too UNfamiliar here is that the courts finally took it upon themselves to dismiss this meritless waste of a doctor’s time and money and the resources of the state’s taxpayers. Read the full story here.

Why Not The Real Thing?

On May 24, Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming) and Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) introduced legislation to fund state pilot projects that test alternative approaches for resolving medical liability disputes. The idea – and we quote – is to “restore fairness and reliability to the medical justice system.”

As Stuart L. Weinstein, M.D., Chairman of DMLR, noted in his statement on the bill, it’s encouraging that there is bipartisan recognition in the U.S. Congress that our current medical liability system is neither fair nor reliable.

But the crisis is now.  And there are solutions that are working now in states such as Texas and California (the two most populous states in the nation), providing fairness, reliability and ensuring patients’ access to the care they need when they need it.  We can’t afford to wait to stop medical lawsuit abuse.

All of this begs the question: why not the real thing?

Read the full statement by DMLR Chairman Stuart L. Weinstein, M.D. here.

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