State's malpractice debate opens

Orlando Sentinel
Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Dozens of health-care providers and insurance executives spent Monday trying to convince a state task force that limiting the size of jury awards against errant physicians is the only way to stop good doctors from fleeing the state or retiring early.

Monday's hearing in Orlando was the first public meeting of the Governor's Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance, created in August by Gov. Jeb Bush to suggest solutions for doctors' skyrocketing medical-malpractice insurance premiums.

The task force -- made up of academics from five Florida universities and chaired by John Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida -- will meet at least two more times, in Miami and again in Orlando, before submitting its recommendations to Bush and the Legislature in January.

A small contingent of consumer advocates and personal-injury lawyers argued Monday that capping pain-and-suffering awards would take away victims' only means of punishing bad doctors.

They complained that the task force had not invited enough people against limits on jury awards. Only about a half-dozen of the 42 people who spoke were against caps, the critics pointed out.

"It seems pretty clear that they [task force members] are not serious about considering alternatives to tort reform," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, which is based in New York. "They have stacked the deck against us."

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

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