A New York State Senate Committee is considering measures to reform civil medical malpractice law. The issue is being considered in light of skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums that doctors have to pay. For example, an OB/GYN in New York City may pay $170,000 in premiums annually.
Doctors want to protect their interests by inducing the New York State legislature to enact various types of “reform,” including capping non-economic jury awards and offering legal immunity for doctors who apologize to patients.
Several facts should be considered by the legislature before taking away substantive rights from those who suffer preventable injuries at the hands of a small number of negligent doctors.
68% of medical malpractice payments in New York are paid by just 7% of the physicians. This seems to indicate that there is no widespread problem of doctors practicing medicine negligently. Rather, there are a few bad apples that are causing the higher medical malpractice premiums for the rest of the doctors.
Rather than limiting the rights of those patients who are injured at the hands of those few bad apples, perhaps the American Medical Association, or the State Medical Associations should consider taking a role similar to the one played by the state bar associations for lawyers.
The state bar associations play a very active disciplinary role when they learn of attorney negligence or misconduct. They routinely discipline attorneys in very damaging ways, including reprimand, temporary suspension of the law license, and complete revocation of the law license. Because of this reality, attorneys are very conscious of their obligations and “bad apple” attorneys are routinely booted from the active practice of law.
The state medical associations have steadfastly refused to take a similarly active role. This decision causes repeat medical malpractice offenders to continue offending and continue causing the malpractice insurance premiums for the rest of the doctors to increase.
Rather than focusing on limiting victims’ rights in medical malpractice cases, doctors’ lobbying groups should focus on preventing medically negligent injuries and deaths by policing their own ranks for the few bad apples.
Picture courtesy of ER Drama.