Spitzer to unveil plan to lower malpractice costs

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

ALBANY - Gov. Eliot Spitzer will unveil a plan in several weeks to overhaul the medical malpractice system as more doctors threaten to stop practicing because of soaring insurance rates.

Hours later, patients' rights advocates accused the second-year governor of excluding them from the talks.

"We've been shut out of this process for the large part," said Joanne Doroshow of the Center for Justice & Democracy.

She and Arthur Levin of the Center for Medical Consumers are members of a task force appointed by Spitzer to study medical liability. Both said they knew nothing about the legislative remedies that Spitzer will announce.

The pair also described as "myths" the assertions of Spitzer and the Medical Society that the high cost of malpractice insurance was driving doctors out of the state, causing shortages in obstetrics and other specialties, and threatening insurers with insolvency because of large damage awards.

Still, victims of medical mistakes argued the problem isn't high premiums but bad doctors.

Craig and Jennifer Lattuga of Shirley said their infant daughter's heart failure was misdiagnosed in January 2006 as acid reflux by Stony Brook University Medical Center. The couple said the hospital refused to discharge baby Giana and police eventually transported her to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for successful heart surgery. The Health Department has since disciplined Stony Brook.

"Doctors need to be at their finest," said Craig Lattuga, an electrician. "Someone needs to police them so their patients aren't at risk."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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