Doctors to rally for malpractice reform; Skyrocketing insurance rates in Md. lead many to retire or leave state, but patients' rights advocates claim awards to victims not to blame

Associated Press
Monday, January 19, 2004

Though she loves delivering babies, Dr. Heather Herman will stop this spring - driven out, in part, by a $20,000 jump in her malpractice insurance rate this year.

The Annapolis doctor isn't alone in dropping obstetrics, one of several specialties that have seen skyrocketing malpractice rates in recent years.

Opponents say the bad economy and poor investments by insurance companies - not malpractice awards - cause insurance rates to spike.

"It's a cyclical problem that can only be solved by reforming the insurance industry and not by taking away patients' rights," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director for the Center for Justice and Democracy, a national consumer group.

After the doctors' rally at the capitol, about 50 people described as "victims of medical malpractice" are expected to gather.

Maryland currently caps the amount a person can receive for "pain and suffering" in a malpractice case at $635,000. MedChi proposes a cap of $350,000. Doroshow said victims are seeking a repeal of the cap, which she calls "catastrophic for the people who've been injured."

"When a doctor makes a mistake, they have to pay for that mistake, because there's nothing that can replace the person you love or the limb that you lost," said Mark Cohen, whose 2-year-old daughter Brianna died after an apparent medical error at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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