Malpractice insurance woes threaten doctors

Montana’s Great Falls Tribune
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Malpractice insurance is an increasing headache for physicians as costs rise and some states face crises. Doctors in states like West Virginia and Nevada have threatened to leave those states unless their legislatures put the brakes on awards to injured people by trial juries.

Montana has a $250,000 cap on jury awards in malpractice cases.

A move is afoot in Congress to protect physicians by setting a similar $250,000 federal cap.

Trial lawyers and some consumer groups are lined up on the opposite side, pointing to dramatic cases of negligence. One leading opponent of damage award caps, the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York City, claims doctors are "hypocrites" for urging caps to protect themselves while filing lawsuits for their own purposes.

"When an HMO, a health insurer or even an auto insurance company has treated doctors unfairly, these doctors go straight to court," claims a June 2 "mythbuster" from the group.

The Center for Justice and Democracy cites the case of Sherry Keller of Conyers, Ga., who was recovering from a hysterectomy when her doctor yanked on a wound, causing the poorly sutured skin to pop open from hip to hip.

The doctor left her alone, and Keller went into shock, fell off the table and broke her neck as she hit the floor. Now a quadriplegic, Keller testified before the House Judiciary Committee, opposing strict caps on damage awards.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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