Thursday, November 27, 2008

Letter: Malpractice deform

Letter: Malpractice deform

Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 06/11/03

Editor: "Dr. Machado" (no first name), Flagler Hospital medical staff president, attacked Ms. Norma Sherry (June 3) for stating the truth: A medical malpractice victim's "pain and suffering" is worth more than $250,000.

Dr. Machado needs to learn some manners. His ukase in response to her is sexist, patronizing and authoritarian. "Dr. Machado" goes too far when he threatens "this lady" with "no neurosurgeon" in the event of "accident," no OB-GYN.

Insurance and medical lobbyists are terrorizing us, demanding bad legislation to "protect" the entire "medical industry" from reasonable jury verdicts. When did "sawbones" become "jawbones," demanding we all surrender our legal rights as a condition of medical treatment?

Doctors who "contract, combine and conspire" to walk off in protest of our Legislature refusing to adopt their $250,000 cap may violate antitrust laws. Unless they are someone's employee, doctors are not "strikers," but boycotting business owners. The Supreme Court held in 1990 that lawyers' boycotting D.C. court-appointed criminal cases violated antitrust laws, was illegal, meant to raise legal fees, and was not protected activity or a labor strike. Doctors walking off the job could face prosecution. At best, it is unkind, uncivil and unwise for physicians to threaten patients (and our legislators) with walk-offs if they don't get their way. This is extortion, not debate. "Investigate" that.

Some would ignore the injustice of inflicting on juries an unconstitutional $250,000 "cap" on the amount they may award as compensatory damages is apparent -- that sum is all that many victim families could ever seek (e.g., if the dead malpractice victim was young, old or without much income-earning ability, the basis of "economic" damages). Loss of our loved ones is not suitable for a corporation-inspired "cap" of $250,000 (weekend "walking around money" for some CEOs).

The federal government has immunized the insurance cartel from antitrust laws for six decades under the McCarran-Ferguson Act.

Congress must enact Sen. Patrick Leahy's Medical Malpractice Insurance Antitrust Act of 2003. As Senator Leahy stated in February, "In the deafening debate about medical malpractice, I believe this legislation is a clear and calm statement about fixing one significant part of the system that is broken -- skyrocketing insurance premiums for medical malpractice." The act would end the loophole for medical malpractice insurance industry "price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocations." "Only professional baseball has enjoyed an antitrust exemption comparable to that created for the insurance industry by the McCarran-Ferguson Act."

Insurance companies lost billions on Wall Street. Simply because they have clout and made poor investments, insurance companies must not be permitted to abolish malpractice civil justice for selfish ends. The Florida Legislature must reject "tort deform" quackery (malpractice "deform") and embrace real "reform" -- tough regulation of malpractice insurance rates and investments.

"Physician, heal thyself." Luke 4:23. "First, do no harm." (Hippocratic Oath). Support Leahy's act. Oppose "cramdown" medical malpractice deformities -- industrial-strength, lobbyist-distributed delusions of "reform."

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