Unless cooler heads prevail, the American Medical Association is
teetering on the brink of public ridicule, mockery and indignation.
Resolution 202 has been introduced by Dr. J. Chris Hawk III from South
Carolina to the AMA's Committee B. It is aimed directly at trial lawyers
This resolution sets a new record for loss of sensitivity toward the
tens of thousands of patients who die every year due to the gross
negligence or incompetence called medical malpractice. This proposed
resolution reflects the AMA's disappointment that the doctor's lobby has
not adequately torpedoed the legal rights of these innocent plaintiffs
in court. So it recommends major legal "surgery" that should turn the
stomachs of more conscientious ethical and competent physicians than
Here are the chilling words:
"RESOLVED, That our American Medical
Association notify physicians that, except in emergencies and except as
otherwise required by law or other professional regulation, it is not
unethical to refuse care to plaintiffs' attorneys and their spouses."
Well at least the third generation Hawk left out the children.
The chilling explanation by Dr. Hawk for this proposed resolution is
that lawsuits against medical-practice mayhem raise malpractice
insurance premiums "forcing physicians to reduce their scope of
practice, relocate, and retire early." Therefore, he concludes, trial
attorneys should be given "the opportunity to experience the access
problems caused by the professional liability crisis," [and] then
"perhaps they would be willing to help change the system."
The main problem with this sadistic sequence of illogic is that it
is false. The insurance companies are gouging the physicians by creating
a phony crisis and playing off the natural desire of physicians never to
be sued. Take all the premiums paid by doctors to insurance companies
for malpractice coverage and divide the sum by all the practicing
physicians. The premium would be about $10,000 a year -- a third of what
they pay an experienced receptionist in their offices.
Regulating insurance premiums to prevent over-classification of
specialists (which jack up rates), promoting experience loss rating (so
that the fewer bad doctors pay more than the competent doctors) and
stiffening regulation by state licensing boards to focus on the
chronically harmful physicians would help reduce the damage to innocent
Five percent of physicians account for about fifty percent of filed
medical malpractice lawsuits. The total amount paid out in verdicts and
settlements in all malpractice lawsuits is between $5 and $6 billion --
less than the amount spent just on dog food in this country. Only ten
percent of medical malpractice victims even file a claim
Yet according to the Harvard School of Public Health Physicians, 80,000
Americans die every year from medical negligence or worse just in
hospitals alone. Hundreds of thousands are significantly injured. By
comparison with the insurance premiums paid, one of the Harvard
physicians estimated the cost of medical malpractice casualties to be
over $60 billion a year.
Dr. Hawk III's narrow frame of reference must have precluded him from
reading the data and studies that contradict his precipitous attempt to
embrace the AMA with a sordid display of unethical recommendations. He
should log onto the websites Citizen.org and Centerjd.org for his
enlightenment (the web sites include data countering the allegation that
doctors are abandoning their practice).
It would be nice to refer him to an AMA website on medical malpractice
and what his organization is doing about this preventable violence. But
there is none. The AMA is oblivious, showing no interest in this
Dr. Hawk III's proposed resolution goes to Committee B and, if approved,
will go to the American Medical Association's House of Delegates for
deliberation. Let Americans see how out of touch the AMA is with reality
and how subservient to the insurance industry they continue to be.