New doctors' group pushes tort reform
■ A coalition of specialties focuses on educating the public and politicians about the liability system crisis.
By Tanya Albert amednews correspondent — Posted March 1, 2004
As tort reform talk heats up in the Senate, get ready for a media blitz.
The newly formed Doctors for Medical Liability Reform in February kicked off a public relations campaign aimed at informing citizens about the need for tort reform. Like other physician groups, DMLR members believe that reasonable limits on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases are key to ensuring that patients will have doctors when they need medical care. Ten physician specialty societies make up DMLR.
On Feb. 11, print ads appeared in national newspapers as part of the group's "Protect Patients Now" initiative." A half-hour television program highlighting the strain that high insurance premiums are putting on the medical system is scheduled to run in Washington and North Carolina, two states where physicians say insurance issues are forcing them to retire early, curtail their services or relocate to other states.
The U.S. House passed tort reform last year that included a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages but there was not enough support in the Senate. In coming weeks that chamber will consider a newly introduced bill by Sens. Judd Gregg (R, N.H.) and John Ensign (R, Nev.) that would cap noneconomic damages for ob-gyns at $250,000.
"People are dying because of politics," said Chicago neurosurgeon Gail Rosseau, MD. "As physicians we can no longer stand by and watch."
Tort reform is the American Medical Association's top legislative priority and AMA President Donald J. Palmisano, MD, said the new group will help continue the fight to pass meaningful tort reform on the national level. "The AMA welcomes the new public awareness campaign," he said.
But the Center for Justice & Democracy, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the right to trial by jury and an independent judiciary for all Americans, said the reforms physicians want won't help their profession and will harm patients. "The cause of the problem lies within the insurance industry," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director for the Center for Justice & Democracy.