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'They Can Sue, But They Can't Hide' 1212

An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times (free reg's yada, yada) has this article about Texas doctors running an online blacklist of patients who have sued. The searchable database is at doctorsknow.us. Nice to know that you can get blacklisted for suing the doctor that caused massive brain damage to your kid (and winning)." To add a plaintiff to the database, membership was not always required.
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'They Can Sue, But They Can't Hide'

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  • Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:54PM (#8494193) Journal
    Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode called "The Package," when Elaine keeps getting the shaft at the doctor's office after being labeled as "difficult."

    Imagine how you'll be treated when your chart has you labeled as "malpractice lawsuit plaintiff." The doctor won't even come into the room.
    • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:01PM (#8494258)
      Imagine how you'll be treated when your chart has you labeled as "malpractice lawsuit plaintiff." The doctor won't even come into the room.

      Think that's bad? Imagine how you would be treated as a lawyer! Once they find out you're a lawyer many doctors will run ten times as many tests as they otherwise would. It pays to keep your mouth shut (or even lie) about your profession.
      • even better.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ecalkin ( 468811 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:12PM (#8494338)
        i have heard of cases where ob/gyns would not accept patients that were lawyers that has pursued malpractice actions. while it was interesting to hear women lawyers bitch about having to leave their county to find a doctor, it was *more* interesting to find out how many people felt no sorrow for them.

        • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Lucidwray ( 300955 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:17PM (#8494739)
          My girlfriend works for an OB/Gyn doctor and i have personally talked to the doctors about this type of subject before. I am totaly and completely on the side of the doctors on this one.

          99% of these lawsuits that people file against doctors that supposedly caused 'brain damage' to children when they were born are completly bogus. The fact that you child was born with down syndrome has just about as much to do with the doctor that delivered him\her as the sex of that child does.

          The total crap part is that you can sue ANYTIME after birth and claim that the doctor that delivered you caused any problems that you have now. I personally talked to a doctor that is being sued by some parents because their child didnt get into the college they were planning on, so they sued the doctor for causing long lasting brain damage 18 years after the birth. The really sad part is the doctor lost the lawsuit and is now repsonsible for paying millions of dollars of damages to the family. And let me say, this is a totaly normal kid who simply didnt get high enough grades on his entrance exams to a college, not some highly deformed retarded human being.

          Its really sad when doctors are sued so often and so frequently that they have been driven to do this type of blacklisting.

          Insurance costs and lawsuits have gotten totaly out of hand in this country. it has driven medical costs through the roof and something has to give.

          If youll remember, a couple years ago somewhere on the east coast, a extremly large group of doctors in virginia I believe went on strike because of sky high malpratice insurance costs. things get much worse and you will see many more strikes like that.
          • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by penguinbrat ( 711309 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:46PM (#8494912)
            I would agree that there is extreme BS on both sides, it seems that human nature has partly evolved into blaming what ever on someone else.

            However, in the case you spoke about - my first guess is that the Doc's attorney did not put much into the case thinking it was blatant BS just like we do, but the plantiff's attorney didn't take that stance and probably bind sided the defense's attorney with stuff he did not expect...

            There has to be some kind of plausable reason for something as dumb as this being victorious.

            • The Other Side (Score:5, Insightful)

              by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Monday March 08, 2004 @06:41AM (#8496634) Homepage
              "There has to be some kind of plausable reason for something as dumb as this being victorious."

              Maybe because the parent poster is lying. I mean, the statute of limitations on the tort probably already expired. (The kid's eighteen, after all.) The parent poster can reply with name of the case.

              This isn't flamebait. I'm just annoyed at people who make quick, uninformed judgments. Normally, medical malpractice cases are extremely difficult to vindicate because the average jury, who just like you, hates malpractice lawyers, has to find by a clear preponderance of the evidence that something wrong happened. To convince a jury of this requires expensive medical expert testimony that is rebutted by the other side. The plaintiff has the burden of persuasion just like the prosecution in a criminal case.

              Findings of guilt usually doesn't happen unless the doctor does something blantantly wrong and against medical protocol, such as leaving an instrument behind, amputating the wrong leg, or twisting a baby's head with forceps. Everything else is just too hard for a jury to understand and find guilt on.
          • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Webhund ( 753391 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:05AM (#8495050)
            If you can prove either of these 2 statements in your post, I'll put my own name on the list of black-balled attorneys:

            1. "99% of these lawsuits that people file against doctors that supposedly caused 'brain damage' to children when they were born are completly bogus." OR
            2. "The total crap part is that you can sue ANYTIME after birth and claim that the doctor that delivered you caused any problems that you have now."

            The fact is that profit and greed by insurance companies have driven medical costs through the roof in this country, not lawsuits. There is not a single state in the U.S. where medical malpractice OR health insurance premiums have come down by $0.01 since the introduction of any tort "reform" measure.

            The next time some doctor or insurance hack tells you some supposed horror story about having to pay millions of dollars because of what he/she considers to be a bogus "frivolous" lawsuit, ask him/her the following:

            1. If you had a pay all this money, why didn't you go to trial and prove your case?

            2. If they answer, "my insurance company made me settle," then ask them why they rolled over on their principles because some faceless insurance company told them to.

            Then, when they get done bad-mouthing everyone they've seen in the last 20 years, ask them for the name of the case and the court it was in. Then, take an hour of YOUR time, go down to the courthouse and look through the case file for the true picture.

            Don't take my word for it; go look for yourself. That's the beauty of our Constitution here in the U.S.A. and I would be extremely suspect of anyone who advocates a system that wants to take away your constitutional right to a jury trial, the right of access to the court system, and your right to a fair and impartial decision maker.
            • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @01:10AM (#8495457)
              The fact is that profit and greed by insurance companies have driven medical costs through the roof in this country, not lawsuits.

              Really? Then why are medical insurance companies pulling out of Nevada [kvbc.com]?

              Insuring doctors in a state with no medical tort reform is a net loss. The greedy insurance company would not pull out of a whole state unless that state were simply unprofitable. That seems to suggest that lawsuits have a lot to do with medical costs.

              There is not a single state in the U.S. where medical malpractice OR health insurance premiums have come down by $0.01 since the introduction of any tort "reform" measure.

              You are neglecting to mention that medical malpractice and health insurance premiums are shooting up in states that do not have any tort reform measure. The rate of growth in protected states is lower than that of unprotected states.

              (The Nevada legislature enacted a reform measure, but malpractice lawyers and departing insurance companies are quick to point out that its constitutionality hasn't been determined, thus the standard "sky's the limit" policy remains the force driving out insurance companies)
              • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Informative)

                by Webhund ( 753391 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @01:56AM (#8495697)
                I'd get your facts straight about Nevada first:

                Before a patient victimized by medical malpractice may file a lawsuit in Nevada District Court, the patient must submit a claim to the Medical Dental Screening Panel, consisting of six professionals - three doctors and three attorneys.

                Before a patient victimized by medical malpractice may file a claim, another doctor must sign an affidavit under oath that medical malpractice occurred and caused injury to the patient.

                In medical malpractice claims, Nevada has a loser pays system. If a patient victimized by medical malpractice loses at the screening panel, proceeds to court and loses at trial, the victim must pay the doctors attorneys fees and costs. Recent examples include awards against victims in excess of $100,000.

                Nevada has over 4,000 doctors, 16,000 Registered Nurses, and more than 2,000 Licensed Practical Nurses. Every day, thousands of procedures (e.g., surgery, blood transfusions, medication administration, diagnoses) are performed in Nevada. In 2001, 219 claims were filed at the screening panel, 181 of which were filed in Clark County.

                Finally, let's put this all into perspective:

                The St. Paul insurance company paid out about $19.6 million in Nevada malpractice claims in the same year that it lost over $108 Million related to Enron: http://www.ntla.org/medmal/Exhibita.pdf

                Last time I checked, St. Paul hasn't stopped insuring other businesses or pushed for caps on claims made by fraudulent businesses like Enron whose entire business plan was the corporate equivalent of supposed ambulance-chasing malpractice victims. That wouldn't go over too well in the boardroom; it's a heckuva lot easier to conjure up some smoke-and-mirror "crisis" targeted against individual claimants who have neither the corporate nor financial wherewithal to mount a unified front to defeat such nonsense.
          • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by fupeg ( 653970 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:19AM (#8495154)
            99% of these lawsuits that people file against doctors that supposedly caused 'brain damage' to children when they were born are completly bogus.
            I don't know what's worse here, the 99% or the "completely bogus." What a ridiculous generalization, clearly showing your complete lack of knowledge on the subject.
            The really sad part is the doctor lost the lawsuit and is now repsonsible for paying millions of dollars of damages to the family.
            Yeah it's so easy to win lawsuits, but Injured malpractice plaintiffs win before juries in only 23% of cases, and only 1.1% of medical malpractice plaintiffs who prevail at trial are awarded punitive damages. [centerjd.org]
            Insurance costs and lawsuits have gotten totaly out of hand in this country. it has driven medical costs through the roof and something has to give.
            This is what rich doctors would have you believe, when actually it's their anti-compettive practices that have driven prices up. They keep the number of doctors artificially low, so as to keep demand high. They also use licensure to force people to purchase mundane services from them instead of having the choice of cheaper alternatives. [lewrockwell.com] For example, you have to pay a dentist to clean your teeth, even if they don't do the cleaning themselves, their nurse does it. You talk about OBs, well if you've ever had a baby you would know that the doctor is usually only present for a couple of minutes, the nurses do everything. Guess who gets the bulk of the pay though...
            • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Ironica ( 124657 ) <pixel.boondock@org> on Monday March 08, 2004 @02:22AM (#8495826) Journal
              You talk about OBs, well if you've ever had a baby you would know that the doctor is usually only present for a couple of minutes, the nurses do everything. Guess who gets the bulk of the pay though...

              Tell me about it. I'm in a program with a certified nurse-midwife as my primary care provider. After 23 weeks of pregnancy, I haven't seen a "doctor" at all (which I'm fine with). However, I've already paid a deposit on my expected co-pay for the *doctor's* delivery charges... which I won't owe them until sometime in late June or early July.

              Granted, they are charging me in advance because apparently the routine visits throughout the pregnancy are all packaged in with the delivery according to my insurance company, so they get *no* payment until the baby is delivered... and have some difficulty collecting if I up and deliver somewhere else. But no one has ever been able to explain to me why I'm paying for a doctor's services in a program where I don't actually see one.
            • Re:even better.... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Technician ( 215283 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @08:35AM (#8497008)
              I wish I could find the sources, please someone with more knowledge of law help me here..

              As I understand it, the crisis started when a doctor who had only (insert amount here, I don't remember how much. Try about 3 million) coverage. He lost a malpratice suit. The jury awarded (I think hundreds of millions) in dammages. The insurance company paid the policy limit. The court objected and forced the insurer to pay way beyond the coverage plan. (I think it was a defective baby case). Due to this opening of the cap on insurance policies, insurers found they were charging rates for a (one or two) million policy, but had the liability of (a good part of a billion) in coverage. Needless to say they started to charge for (maybe 500) million policies instead of one or two because the court re-wrote the doctors policies. With a policy limit removed by the courts, we have the spiral of hit the deep pockets with lawsuits and charging for the big policies that the courts mandated. The mistake happened when a multi hundred million award was forced out of a several million policy. That broke the insurance system.

              Any history buff want to help me fill in the blanks? Anybody want to prove me wrong?
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:13PM (#8494346) Journal
        In all seriousness lawyers have lots of problems with renting and buying property.

        Owners are afraid of being sued.

        3 out of my 4 last apartments I lived at had a clause I had to sign making sure I am not a lawyer and that I would not sue them, etc.

        This is a big problem in larger cities like New York, LA, and San Fransisco where there are more potential tenents then apartments or homes available. These are where the tenants and owners can weed lawyers out.

        If you owned a place would you rent to a lawyer? I surely would not.

        • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Informative)

          by gcaseye6677 ( 694805 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:27PM (#8494448)
          Here is an article [mormonstoday.com] that mentions this exact situation. A lawyer sued someone who refused to sell to him, but he ultimately lost.
        • by hendridm ( 302246 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:59PM (#8494627) Homepage
          I wouldn't worry about being sued by a lawyer who still rents. He/she has obviously not been that successful ;)

        • I don't blame them (Score:5, Interesting)

          by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:30PM (#8494811)
          I've lived with lawyers, and they were the most pedanticaly anal assholes I've ever had the mispleasure of sharing a house with. Sure enough, when the flats dissolved, they were writing letters and making demands and generally pissing everyone outside of their clique off (obviously I was one of those on the receiving end). They don't seem to understand that notion of "give and take" that lets people get along smoothly. I can only imagine what landlords have to go through when things get difficult. Give me a flat with laid-back pot-smoking geeks anyday. /generalizing, but that's my experience anyway...
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:14PM (#8494357)
        Think that's bad? Imagine how you would be treated as a lawyer! Once they find out you're a lawyer many doctors will run ten times as many tests as they otherwise would. It pays to keep your mouth shut (or even lie) about your profession.

        Um, good? In other words, doctors will exercise more diligence and generally do things to avoid getting sued, namely screwing up. I think I'll tell them all I'm a lawyer, thanks for the good idea!

        • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CuriHP ( 741480 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:16PM (#8494371)
          I suppose it wouldn't matter to you that it would be a massive waste of time and money that would be driving everyone's insurance premiums up?
          • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:10PM (#8494699) Homepage
            The question is how many of the lawsuits are valid. In many states, before a malpractice lawsuit is filed the plaintiff must have a statement from another doctor that the lawsuit has merit. One of the popular mythes is that the McDonald's coffee lawsuit is baseless.
            • For years McDonalds served their coffee up to 40 degrees hotter than other fast-food restaurants. In this way, they could get more coffee per pound of beans and increase their profits by a few cents per cup.
            • McDonald's coffee was so hot that, if spilled, it could cause third degree burns, which would burn through skin and down to the muscle in less than three seconds.
            • McDonald's has had over 700 previous claims related to serious burns from their coffee to their customers, many of whom had been injured in the genital area, inner thighs, and buttocks areas. Yet, McDonald's refused to lower the temperature of their coffee.

            • The injured (burned) plaintiff in this case, 79 year old Stella Lieback, was not driving her car. She was seated as the passenger in her grandson's parked car, holding the coffee cup between her legs while removing the plastic lid. The cup tipped over and poured the scalding hot coffee into her lap causing third degree burns.
            • Lieback required eight days of hospitalization and multiple surgeries, including skin grafts as a result of being scalded by McDonald's coffee.
            • Mrs. Lieback only took legal action against McDonald's after they repeatedly refused to reimburse her for her medical expenses.
            • The jury was so outraged at the arrogance and callousness of McDonald's that they awarded punitive damages, to punish McDonald's and to deter McDonald's from such conduct in the future. They awarded $2.7 million.
            • The day after the verdict, McDonald's reduced the temperature of their coffee.
            • The trial judge thought the verdict was too high and reduced the verdict to about $400,000 at McDonald's request. (This is one fact that the insurance lawyers and McDonald's corporate lawyers never mention.)

            Before claiming something is baseless, first look at all the facts.
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Erratio ( 570164 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:25PM (#8494437)
        I think the fault in issues like this ultimately lies with the judicial systems. While there are easy ways to get away with things like frivolous lawsuits then there are gonna be hordes of lawyers who are making their living off of them, and the whole paranoia that is present in different fields which are often central in such cases. There needs to be a more enforced writ of "Shit Happens" and an acknowledgement that sometimes it's no one's fault...and sometimes it's the vitim's stupidity's fault, and all the shades of gray in between. Random misquote... "A jury is a group of people who are chosen to decide who has a better lawyer"...Will Rogers??
        • by Linuxathome ( 242573 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:25AM (#8495186) Homepage Journal
          there are gonna be hordes of lawyers who are making their living off of them

          True story:

          I was at the medschool graduation ceremony of George Washington University 2 years ago. That year, the med school graduated about 150 students, and the law school graduated some 400-500+ students. The president of the university commented on this disparity as a joke and said something to the effect, "I hope there are enough MDs in the crowd to support the number of lawyers that we graduated." Jokes are funny because they always have some base of truth in them.
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Davak ( 526912 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:33PM (#8494490) Homepage
        -=humor mode on=-

        Should we get mad at the bunnies for running away when we walk through the field dressed as a hunters?

        -=mode off=-

        I actually take care of several lawyers in my practice. There is usually a big "gulp" of worry initially--they I kid about it on subsquent visits and we forget about it.

        Most lawyers are educated people and can easily help make most medical decisions.

        I say, "Hey, I am 75% sure this is what you've got... You want to try this treatment or would you rather run a few more tests? Test X and Y would make me 10% more sure of your diagnosis."

        Then it is our decision about testing. If I miss that hidden rare zebra cancer... then it is both our faults.

        • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Smitedogg ( 527493 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:12AM (#8495102) Homepage

          It's good to see that as a doctor you're will to help anyone who needs help....however I have a true first-hand story coming up.

          There is a lawyer in a town in Colorado (Canon City) named Anna Owen. She's not a very good lawyer, btw. She is, however, the primary guardian of my roommates neice. About 5 or 6 months ago she had two anuerisms [sp?], and was rushed to the hospital in Pueblo CO

          The second she got in, she started telling everyone how she was a lawyer, and making demands, refusing to sign forms, etc. Frankly, how she was able to be a bitch with two anuerisms is beyond me.

          The doctors, not being idiots, or as nice as you perhaps, refused to take care of her, and I can see why. Imagine the lawsuits from her being permanantly brain damaged. They thusly sent her to Denver for treatment, and she was treated quite well. Now here's the kick in the balls.

          She, after recovering, is able to work, and does. However, she is now suing the hospital in Denver for causing her undue harm, or some such thing. I wish I had the specifics of the suit at hand. The way I look at it, she had two veins in her head blow up and she's still able to do EVERYTHING she did before, that to me is a miracle in itself, and a testament to the treatment the doctors gave her.

          It's good to treat everyone equally, but it turns out the two self-protective doctors here in Pueblo are the winners in this case. But you seem nice, so I hope YMMV.

    • by Cosmik ( 730707 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:04PM (#8494277) Homepage
      Speaking about Seinfeld and doctors, I'll take a vet over an MD any day. I already go to the vet to get checked up. I find it's cheaper, the queue is shorter, and I get my coat brushed to a glossy shine after every visit.
      • by TykeClone ( 668449 ) <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:11PM (#8494332) Homepage Journal
        Doctors are just vets who flunked out of vet school - could only handle one species.
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Alan Hicks ( 660661 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:10PM (#8494700) Homepage
        I'll take a vet over an MD any day

        Funny? Hell I'll take a vet over an MD most any time too. As it is, I doctor myself up with veternary supplies. They're simply cheaper. I can legally buy my own general purpose antibiotics and knock out most anything. Wounds I coat down with Blu-Kote wound treatment (typically used for cows and horses of which I have a few). Mammals are mammals for the most part, and if you're not doing surgery, it ain't that big a difference.

        Of course I cannot reccomend anyone else do this, but it has worked for me all my years. I am not a doctor nor a veterination, just an old farm hand with a bit of knowledge about critters, of which humans are one.

        • Re:Difficult? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:43AM (#8495308) Journal
          I can legally buy my own general purpose antibiotics and knock out most anything.

          Really? What are you doing that exposes you to so many bacterial infections?

          Most common ailments from which people suffer (most coughs and colds, the flu) are viral infections. Antibiotics don't have any effect on them whatsoever.

          By taking antibiotics for those diseases, you're doing yourself no good, and probably hurting yourself. First, you're knocking out the population of healthy, symbiotic bacteria in your gut that aid digestion and do a number of other useful things for you. Second, by knocking down the healthy population of bacteria, you leave behind a fertile open ground for nasty bacteria to colonize. Then you need antibiotics, perhaps...

          ...except that through the regular use of antibiotics, you encourage the evolution of bacterial strains resistant to common broad-spectrum antibiotics. That doesn't just screw you, by the way...it affects the rest of us too. Thanks.

          Please, I encourage you to consult a physician (or at least a veterinarian) before self-medicating further.

    • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:04PM (#8494279) Journal
      Come on, how stupid are people? If you and your ambulance-chaser treat doctors' insurers as your own private ATM, why be surprised when there is some accountability?

      Lawsuits are, and have always been, a matter of public record. Perhaps people who abuse the system should consider this fact.

      Sorry, no sympathy for those on the blacklist.

      • The Doctors records of misconduct and related board actions are private. Doctors want this info on others, but they do not want others to have the same level of detail on them.
        • The Doctors records of misconduct and related board actions are private. Doctors want this info on others, but they do not want others to have the same level of detail on them.

          No, the previous post said that lawsuits are matters of public record. If a doctor is sued, no matter what the outcome, anyone can go down to the courthouse and view the transcript.

          Now, if you're saying that it's not fair that there's no web-searchable list of doctors that have had malpractise suits brought against them, why don't you start one?
          • I am talking about complaints to their license board. Those are secret and the doctors orgs fight tooth and nail to keep them that way.
          • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:54PM (#8494956) Journal
            Offtopic here, but I want to reply to your sig. Specifically the article referenced by your sig. The author of the article has made one of the classic "mistakes" in tax analysis (I put "mistakes" in quotation marks becuase usually the people who write about taxes have enough knowledge on the topic that it cannot be a mistake but rather deliberate attempt to decieve their audience).

            Income tax is not the sum total of all taxes. His statistics are valid enough for income tax, but that's hardly the whole story. The average working stiff pays almost nothing in income taxes; perfecly true. However this does *not* mean that the average working stiff pays no taxes. Most people pay the vast majority of their taxes in the form of payroll taxes. Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, FICA, etc. Those are only the Federal taxes, of course. Local taxes (sales tax, property tax, telephone tax, electricity tax, gas (both methane and petrol) taxes, etc) are a hefty bite as well. Social Security alone accounts for a huge bite out of the average person's paycheck and is also one of the most regressive taxes in existance. Only the first $86,000 a person makes are subject to Social Security tax, which means that 100% of my income gets hit with Social Security tax, but less than .001% of Bill Gates' income is subject to SS tax. A politician who proposed leveling SS taxes would get my vote immediately and without reservation.

            The upper 1% of the population pays around 33% of all tax money that goes to Washington. Yup, absolutely true. The thing is that the upper 1% has around 33% of the money. On a dollar for dollar basis they actually pay slightly less than the lower 50% do. Far from being overtaxed, the upper 1% are (assuming that everyone should pay an equal percentage of their wealth) slightly under taxed.

            As for the writer's conclusion that we ought to consider limiting the franchise to people who pay X dollars in (watch his language here) *income*taxes* it sounds like he's just dying to establish a classic plutocracy. Those in power, now possessing exclusive voting franchise could quite easily define "income tax" to exclude incredibly large portions of society while increasing the various non-"income taxes" with impunity. Taxation without representation anyone?

            On a practical note, I will point out that every single member of the elected Federal government, as well as every single member of the past 5 president's Cabinets, falls into the upper 1%. Most fall into the upper 1/10th of 1%. The economic elite are hardly underrepresented in government; quite the opposite really (side note: I refer to their income prior to becoming a member of government here). I personally would like to see just *one* person in the Federal government who falls into the "lower" 70%. I will observe that the Federal government (under past administrations as well as the current administration) seems quite content to emplace policies that primarially benefit the economic elite, while occasionally tossing a bone to the rest of the nation. What baffles me is that people keep voting for government by, of, and for millionares...

            History has shown us that while voting requirements often sound good on paper they never really work in practice. Just like Communism, or lassie-faire capitalism, its an idea that simply does not work in the real world. Inevitably the best intentioned voter requirements become nothing more than a tool of oppression. In my own ideal fantasy world you couldn't vote unless you displayed a knowledge of the *facts* in current affairs. The difference between me and the person who wrote the article you reference is that I'm mature enough to know that my fantasy won't work in reality; he doesn't seem to have reached that point yet.

      • by wmspringer ( 569211 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:07PM (#8494308) Homepage Journal
        And if the lawsuit isn't frivolous? Should you refrain from suing an incompetant doctor because if you do you won't be able to get health care in the future?
    • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LauraScudder ( 670475 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:35PM (#8494501) Journal
      It's a better idea than letting all the doctors move out of Texas because their malpractice has gone through the roof and no one's willing to pass a law limiting awards to actual damages. My sister's in med school now in Texas, and everyone in her class has been told not to practice in South Texas, where there's so many malpractice claims filed that it's unprofitable to run a practice there, whether you're the one getting sued or not.
      • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:19AM (#8495153) Journal
        It's a better idea than letting all the doctors move out of Texas because their malpractice has gone through the roof and no one's willing to pass a law limiting awards to actual damages.
        I find it fascinating that there is an entire side to this equation that is never discussed: the insurance companies. Don't misunderstand me, I'm sure that there are some frivilous lawsuits out there. However, I find it quite difficult to believe that the judges and juries are stupid enough to award someone millions for no reason. Simply put a great number of the malpractice suits must be valid. We do have a court system you know, every doctor who lost a malpractice case was found gulty by 12 rational people.

        I personally can't help but wonder how much of the soaring cost of malpractice insurance is due to simple profiteering on the part of the insuring companies. Historically laws putting caps on malpractice claims have *not* reduced the cost of malpractice insurance. California, for example, passed an award cap in 1976, over the next 12 years malpractice insurance rates increased by 190%. Hardly the result promised, no?

        More significantly other evidence indicates that the insurance companies are simply indulging in price gouging. During the period from 1995-1999 medical malpractic insurance rates increased by around 1.2% During that same period overall health care costs increased by around 13.6 percent. The doctors aren't taking home that extra 13.6 percent, ask any doctors you know. The doctors are getting screwed by the insurance industry as much as their patients are. The HMO's and other insurance companies are getting filthy rich off this scam.

    • by c1ay ( 703047 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:36PM (#8494507) Homepage
      Darl's [mailto] a lawsuit-happy kind of guy, I wonder if he's been a plaintiff in any medical suits too? Why don't you all email him and ask?
    • Re:Difficult? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:49PM (#8494585) Homepage
      Imagine how it feels to be a doctor! If you make one mistake (and who here has NEVER made a mistake at work? Especially ER doc who can get called in a 4am) you can be personally sued, ruining your life and your entire family's life, stopping you from ever working again, and thus not being able to get a chance to save more lives. Oops, your bankrupt because you just lost a suit for $2billion while your malpractice only covered you up to $500million. Now your kids can't go to college, you have to sell all of your posessions, no insurance company will cover you so you can't work now--all because, after dedicating your life to saving lives, there is one thing you didn't think of while trying to save another life. And AFTER THE FACT, some lawyer makes a very emotional argument to a jury of weak-mided suckers. I am sure if a doc in the emergency room had as much time to waste analyzing everything as the lawyer took, there would be far fewer mistakes. But when someone is wheeled in bleeding, you have to think FAST. You can't always be perfect.
      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:21PM (#8494761)
        >Now your kids can't go to college, you have to sell all of your posessions, no insurance company will cover you

        Right now there's a big battle between doctors and trial lawyers in regards to putting caps on damages regardless of how grossly negligent the doctor was.

        Simply put, they want you to pick a side and this website and rhetoric about 'poor doctors' is a ploy to win the caps battle. Personaly, I refuse to take sides as both sides are losing propositions. A real solution would require regulating both doctors and lawyers and neither party wants that because that means less profit, thus little war of attrition.

        The doctors (AMA) want me to give up my essential rights to sue for damages because they supposedly can't afford insurance.

        The lawyers still want to be able to collect 1/3rd of my damages.

        I think this situation shows a larger problem: people getting the shaft from two well organized and powerful lobbies. I'd rather see lawyers unable to collect so much from me and see medicine socialized/single-payment/regulated so I can actually see a doctor now and again. In the meantime its the wealthy vs the wealthy at the expense of you and me.
  • Perhaps someone could start a blacklist of doctors who have posted to this blacklist. Or, just check this list before selecting a physician.

    • by rlthomps-1 ( 545290 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:08PM (#8494313) Homepage
      believe me, if you lose a malpractice lawsuit, you are gonna lose a lot of business. come on, is the concept of frivolous law suits so much of a stretch to apply to the medical world?

      doc's pay a ton in malpractice insurance and losing one of these cases is desastating. There are tons of patients that show up with a law suit on their minds because they

      a) are just that type of person
      b) they can't pay for the service and are looking for a way to cover their bills (believe me, this happens).

      just like anyone else doing business in this world, doctors have to protect themselves.
    • by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:09PM (#8494316) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps someone could get the ridiculous malpractice claims under control and spend a little more time critically evaluating the situation when one comes up?

      Things like this exist because jobless wonders with no skills and no future see an easy out and sue the doctor for some assinine bullshit, then ignorant juries award this sinister behavior when crooked lawyers trump things up around the "poor, suffering victim". If you didn't have as many assholes out there pulling bullshit cases and getting exhorbitant "awards", the people with legitimate claims wouldn't be more than an afterthought to professionals who know what they're doing.

      It's just another example of how the "legal" profession makes its money by ruining everyone else. Legalized thugs.

      • by Davak ( 526912 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:39PM (#8494526) Homepage
        When I was practicing in the deep south, the malpractice problem seemed a lot worse.

        Poorly educated patients would sue and sue... and eventually they would find some poorly educated jury to give them a lot of money.

        Poorer people also pull the "sue card" in order to pressure the physician into signing the disability paperwork. Then the money just comes from everybody instead of the doctor's insurance company.

    • by Gyan ( 6853 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:15PM (#8494360)
      If you're a patient, check ChoiceTrust [choicetrust.com].
  • by rasafras ( 637995 ) <tamas@pha.j[ ]edu ['hu.' in gap]> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:57PM (#8494213) Homepage
    I personally know a few doctors, and malpractice lawsuits have gotten out of hand. Insurance for doctors has skyrocketed to an incredible rate. Somehow there must be a balance between the two - let them sue, but not too much?
    • by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:08PM (#8494311) Journal
      Hear, hear! If you want to point a finger, point it towards ambulance chasers. They cause insurance rates to skyrocket, followed directly by the cost of healthcare, and you end up with such defense reactions. Sure it's not perfect, because it's the first time someone thought of it; but how good were the spam filters when they first appeared?

      I for one am for it. Flame away!
    • by Aexia ( 517457 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:18PM (#8494382)
      I personally know a few doctors, and malpractice lawsuits have gotten out of hand. Insurance for doctors has skyrocketed to an incredible rate. Somehow there must be a balance between the two - let them sue, but not too much?

      High insurances rates aren't being caused by malpractice lawsuits; they're being caused by the stock market tanking. The medical insurance companies' holdings took a massive beating and they're raising rates to compensate.

      States(like Florida) that have passed caps on damages for malpratice have insurance premiums just as high as the rest of the nation.

      Tort reform is about making screwups a low, predictable cost of doing business and lawyers have become convienient scapegoats for those who would like to avoid responsibility for their actions.

      In the end, the biggest(and highest profile) awards inevitably end up being against companies and people that repeatedly ignored the problem. It's funny that for a readership that decries so many abuses by corporate America, an awful lot of Slashdoters seem willing to castrate one of few remaining ways an individual person can hold a corporation accountable.
      • by Davak ( 526912 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:45PM (#8494560) Homepage
        To be honest... I think insurance rates have increased mainly from the increasing cost of practicing medicine as a whole.

        Working in an ICU, I can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a day on tests that were not even available 20 years ago. I can spend an equal amount of money on medicines that were not around 2 years ago.

        Although I would love to blame increasing insurance rates on the lawsuits, it is really that our society demands that people receive the best possible medicial care -- and that best possible medical care gets more and more expensive everyday.

        • by Davak ( 526912 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:48PM (#8494577) Homepage
          Sorry to reply to my own message... but I left out a couple of other factors that are causing everybody's insurance rates to increase.

          - The average person is older. Older people need more medical care -> more money.

          - The average person is fatter. Fatter people meed more medical care -> more money.

          - People that used to die from severe disease (HIV, pulmonary hypertension) can now be kept alive using expensive medications and treatments -> more money.

          We can't just blame the damn lawyers for everything...

    • by loyalsonofrutgers ( 736778 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:18PM (#8494384)
      Insurance rates do not skyrocket from lawsuits. There has not been a significant rise in number of suits or in total rewards.

      Why then, do premiums rise so dramatically? The answer is simply because insurance companies are required to keep a certain percentage of their total coverages as a reserve. Certain amounts of this has to be in cash, but a good percentage can be in a stock or other market portfolio. That's right: a lot of this legally mandated reserve is in stocks. Guess what happens when the stock market crashes? That reserve evaporates. Can anyone remember anything like that happening recently?

      So what happens when 80% of your reserve disappears? You have to get the money somehow, it's required. Legally. So what else can you put into the reserve, if not your now worthless stock portfolio? Cash. How do you get cash? Premiums. Premiums went up beceause insurance companies stock portfolios plumetted and they needed the cash to fill their reserve.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:30PM (#8494469)
      I'm not sure many people realize doctor's aren't that rich anymore. My dad is a doctor. He's never been sued and everyone goes out of their way to tell me how wonderful he is. Yet malpractice insurance goes up and up. I used to go to private school but now I am going to public school because there isn't enough money. Insurance companies pay doctors whatever they want. And they decrease the pay without telling you. My dad says he loses 50% of the cost of a shot most of the time because the insurance company pays less than what it costs to buy the shot. Don't forget about overhead like electricity and rent. A friend of mine's dad is a doctor too. A patient begged and begged to be released from the hospital. Finally the doctor explained the risk of that and signed him out. He died soon after and now they are moving to a smaller house. I know that there is a lot of deserved malpractice suits. When I was born my mom kept saying she couldn't feel below her shoulders and the doctor kept giving her more and more anesthesia for the cesarean. Eventually she couldn't breathe anymore but obviously I survived. There needs to be some malpractice. The problem is the law doesn't distinguish between this and other more understandable mistakes. People need to realize medicine is a field of probabilities. Doctors improve your probability of surving. Occasionally they do something wrong but you can't always blame them if something bad happens. As it is now my dad is struggling to stay in business as lawyer and insurance companies profit off it as well as eager to sue patients. Something has to happen
    • by bombadillo ( 706765 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:48PM (#8494580)
      Lets look at some statistics... www.medical-malpractice-lawyers-attorneys.com [medical-ma...orneys.com] The two statistics that caught my eye were:
      1. From 1996 through 1999, Florida hospitals reported 19,885 incidents but only 3,177 medical malpractice claims. In other words, for every 6 medical errors only 1 claim is filed.
      2. Malpractice insurance costs amount to only 3.2 percent of the average physician's revenues according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
      or this link: Citizen.org [citizen.org]:
      "10.6 percent of the state's doctors have paid two or more malpractice awards to patientsThese repeat offender doctors are responsible for 84 percent of all payments. Even more surprising, only 4.7 percent of Pennsylvania 's doctors (1,838), each of whom has paid three or more malpractice claims, are responsible for 51.4 percent of all payments. "

      Frivolis lawsuits really aren't that much of a problem. I am much more concerned about the increasing privitazation and high price of Prescription drugs in this country.
  • Puh-lease (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:57PM (#8494215) Homepage Journal
    Oh come on, can we leave the editorials out of the submissions?

    IN real life, there ARE patients who wind up sueing every doctor in town. There are patients who try to scam painkillers off of doctors, there are patients who try to forge perscriptions for Morphine at pharmacies.

    Yes, some patients do have real legitimate cases, but if they wind up sueing more than 2 doctors, do you want to take them in as your patient? Why don't you pay thousands a month in malpractice insurance, and let me know what you will do. (No, I'm not a doctor, they're just in my family).

    This all depends on the doctor. I'm sure he'll call up his friend Dr. Phil and ask why the lady was sueing him. If she was stepping on every word he said in his own office, then I'm sure the doctor won't take the case, as is his prerogative. You can't sue for abandonment if the doctor won't even take your case. Besides, the lawsuit record has been availible for some time, I could go online and search the plaintiff lists to see if my neighbor sued anyone recently. So can landlords and the rest of the world.

    • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:04PM (#8494281) Journal
      If doctors think this is a good idea why are they so opposed to keeping their own legal/discipline records away from the public?
      • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@yahoo. c o m> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:47PM (#8494571) Homepage
        Some/many/most doctors are opposed to having their discipline records public for the same reason you should say nothing if you're brought into the police station for questioning, even if you're innocent:

        You have *NOTHING* to gain from talking. If you have a choice between two courses of action, and one will do you no good and may or may not cause you harm, and the other will also do you no good but definitely won't cause you harm, which course of action do you choose?

        I also suspect that even if doctors maintain such a blacklist, they're probably also smart enough to filter out people from the blacklist on a case-by-case basis.

        Either way, the REAL solution to this problem is to make malpractice covered by a patient's insurance company. If your doctor screws up, your insurance company pays the malpractice claim - that way people can choose to pay for the amount of malpractice coverage they want, instead of forcing everyone to pay for those who abuse the system.
    • Re:Puh-lease (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Davak ( 526912 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:26PM (#8494440) Homepage
      MD (not yet been sued) here...

      The simple fact is that people abuse the system.

      Some doctors abuse the system, get caught, get sued, and get punished. If it happens too often, his/her license is removed.

      Some patients abuse the system, too. They use a shotgun approach and attempt to sue and sue and sue. By using lawyers that only collect fees for winning, these patients hurt the doctor and the lawyer side of "medicine."

      Does this type of system leave a foul taste in my mouth? Hell, yeah. The guys that are making money off of this are almost as bad as those habitual plantiffs.

      However, I say this with the bias that I have never been sued by one of these rabid money grabbers.

      The old system of doctor and patient loving and respecting one another is leaving... and that's part of the problem.

      As I was reading this thread a patient called me at home. He's a very difficult case, and his family are salt of the earth people. I care for them... so I let them call me directly, on a weekend, when I am not on call. I gave them potential life-or-death advice on the phone tonight... if I am wrong, they could easily sue me.

      However, they never would. Because we have a true patient-doctor relationship that is so rare these days. I care for them... and they respect me--with my knowledge and my faults.

      Yeah, the system is screwed--on both sides of the equation.

    • Re:Puh-lease (Score:4, Insightful)

      by antiMStroll ( 664213 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:44PM (#8494553)
      "Oh come on,....

      My least favourite reasoning.

      "... can we leave the editorials out of the submissions?"

      Errrr, there'd be no point in the submission without the 'abuse of database' angle, agree with it or not. That's why it's Your Rights Online, the 'right' to patient care (quotation marks not required in all countries.)

      "IN real life, there ARE patients who wind up sueing every doctor in town."

      They leave a trail and represent an extreme case. Are these doctors differentiating, databasing only the extreme cases? Little chance.

      "There are patients who try to scam painkillers off of doctors, there are patients who try to forge perscriptions for Morphine at pharmacies."

      Irrelevant and ad hominem, associating medical malpractice claimants with scammers and crooks. Cheap shot and statistically meaningless.

      "Yes, some patients do have real legitimate cases, but if they wind up sueing more than 2 doctors, do you want to take them in as your patient?"

      Ah well, now we come to the crux of it, don't we? Apparently it doesn't matter if these people were multiple victims or sued multiple practioners in a single incident, screw the Hypocratic Oath and them again by denying care.

      "Why don't you pay thousands a month in malpractice insurance, and let me know what you will do."

      Chaulk it up to the cost of doing business, continue earning my six figures and try to remember the reasons for entering medicine instead of auto repair. See Hypocratic Oath above. BTW, where does the money for that insurance premium comes from if not increased patient billings? They're the ones really paying for the scammers, and now the legitimate victims get to pay again by being denied care.

  • by harks ( 534599 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:58PM (#8494227)
    I would think that most doctors would realize there are situations where a malpractice suit is warranted and necessary.
  • This is absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dartmouth05 ( 540493 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:58PM (#8494229)
    This database is very infuriating, especially given the many states where official reprimands of doctors are not made public.

    Two weeks ago, the MA legislature passed a bill called Taylor's Law, that orginally called for putting reprimands of doctors online. The doctor lobby got that provision shot down, arguing that it might stop doctors from freely talking to the board.

    If patients in MA can't find out who the problem doctors are, I don't see why doctors should be able to see the names of patients who sued.

    Furthermore, membership should definitely be required to add people to the list, otherwise, any quack who gets justifiably sued can easily add his or her patients to the list out of spite.

  • by -=[Dr. AJAX]=- ( 17537 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:58PM (#8494235) Homepage
    The problem is that both sides have bad apples. Sure you have some bad doctors that really shouldn't be practicing. But you also have some people who want easy money from malpractice insurance companies who are most likely to settle that to fight it out in court. The idea of lawsuits as a source of incoming isn't patented by SCO as yet.
  • Lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LittleLebowskiUrbanA ( 619114 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:59PM (#8494242) Homepage Journal
    So basically both the patients and the doctor get screwed and the lawyers come out on top.
  • by nebenfun ( 530284 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:01PM (#8494257)
    This kinda of reminds me of going into a store and seeing people's bad checks on the wall....

    People sue at the drop of the hat nowadays....and the lawyers are waiting in the shadows.

    A person will NOT be denied life threatening health care...
    but what if someone with a history of lawsuits(frivilous or not) wants high risk surgery from you? Would you be willing to bet your career and finanicial well being on them?

    Information is freedom, right?
  • by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:04PM (#8494275) Journal
    The expert whose decision in a lawsuit is most important is a doctor.
    For several thousands of lawsuits, less than 10 were won by the patienst.
    People with sponges, scissors, pieces of bandaid left in their bodies during a surgery lost. People whose relatives died because the doctor administered a drug that works opposite to what was obviously required, lost. Doctors found drunk on duty were claimed innocent.
    Be happy that you can win at all.
  • by SmackCrackandPot ( 641205 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:04PM (#8494276)
    There was a story some time back about a new housing development that was built, but had the restriction that no lawyers were allowed to buy any of the homes. The construction company feared that they would be sued if anything was wrong with any of the homes. This restriction was only discovered when a lawyer attempted to buy one of the homes. So he sued the company for discrimination.
  • Who's to blame? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russianspy ( 523929 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:06PM (#8494293)
    Although I acknowledge that there are good reasons for suing a doctor, most of them are not. Doctors are human, they're doing the best they can.

    If a treatment has a 80% chance of working, and 5% chance of killing you is it a mistake to recommend it? What if you'd die anyways, just 5 years down the road? You'd have 80% chance at life. I think most of us would agree that it's not a mistake to try it. If a patient dies because of that treatment - was it a mistake? I could see only one problem - that's if/when the doctor did not explain the odds/risks.
    I see way too many people suing because they need to be protected from themselves.
    • Re:Who's to blame? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tony ( 765 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:34PM (#8494840) Journal
      Although I acknowledge that there are good reasons for suing a doctor, most of them are not. Doctors are human, they're doing the best they can.

      Hospitals are like assembly lines. They try to push through the maximum number of cases to increase the billables. This pressure to perform increases the chance of something going wrong.

      I work in a hospital. The number one concern in the hospital is not the welfare of the patient, although that is what we claim; it is the ability to bill for the services provided to the patient. Now, our hospital really *is* concerned about the welfare of our patients, but that doesn't reduce the waiting time to see the doctor, nor the quick manner in which the doctor performs services.

      What most people overlook, though, is that medicine is an imprecise science. Many things are easy to diagnose and treat, but many others are transient, or poorly described by the patient (doctors rely heavilly on patient information), or even just strange. Plus, you have to consider that patients are constantly asking for drugs the pharmaceutical companies tell them to ask for, many of which are poorly-understood (by everyone, not just the doctors and patients).

      It's not easy to be a good doctor in todays society, in which people are viewed as "consumers." But that doesn't excuse the doctors for slipshod treatment.
  • by werdna ( 39029 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:14PM (#8494348) Journal
    Doctors and patients both have an interest in knowing about the litigation history of their counterparts. A patient complains of poor medical treatment, sues, settles and moves on to another part of the country, to deal with another doctor and another insurance company. While many patients have legitimate gripes, I for one can attest from personal experience that others are not.

    Sometimes you can find out by discovery the patient's prior litigation history, and other times they lie. The bad ones, unsurprisingly, lie. Extensive investigation can disclose the lie, which pretty much nails the case, but when you don't, you have been stung, and the "professional patient" scores another scam.

    For the most parts, doctors are honest and honorable, did as well as they could, and patients are honest and honorable, and were grievously harmed. Sometimes the injury was due to neglgence, other times not. Accordingly, the record of the existence of a lawsuit doesn't tell the entire story, not ever. But it is very, very useful information.

    As a patient, you want to know if a doctor has a long history of being a defendant. As a doctor, you want to know if a patient has a long history of being a plaintiff. It may make your decision, or not, but it is information you would rather have at the outset of a relationship than not.

    NONE OF THIS, however, is private information. While details of medical history are for the most part confidential, the existence of a plaintiff and defendant and a lawsuit are public record. It is just that clerk of court information isn't readily available to everybody.

    It may not surprise you to know that for years, consortiums of plaintiff and defense attorneys have kept databases of expert witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. The fact that the internet has made this information much cheaper and more readily available is, in my view, a very good thing.

    Once again, the truth shall set you free.

    The question is how the information is used. That is the issue.
  • by rtilghman ( 736281 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:17PM (#8494375)

    I've had arguments with doctors I know who take a highly visceral reaction to malpractice suits and jury awards. Nearly every one of them rails against what they perceive as a litigious US culture, and speaks with unquestioned confidence about how lawsuits are:

    - driving up insurance costs
    - unfairly assuming medical perfection
    - making it unattractive or impossible to practice medicing in the US

    What I find amazing is the fact that NONE of the statistics support any of these positions. According to two recent studies - one by the AMA and the other by the Harvard Public Policy school (?, I believe the Harvard Medical Practice Study) - both found that:

    - malpractice, at least as defined by negligence, is fairly common
    - of those with valid claims, only about 1% actually bring suit against a doctor
    - of those who bring suit, only 1% are successful

    This means that 1/100 of a percent of incidents of malpractice actually result in an award. Then you have the fact that the review committees in every case are made up of doctors and professionals, the act that an attorney who doesn't think a case is worth his effort or will reach an award won't even bother PURSUING the case, etc.

    I'm also reminded of another study conducted in NY a few years back. If I remember correctly the study found that of all malpractice claims in the state less that 10 doctors were responsible for nearly 50% of the cases. Why were they practicing? Because the medical review boards hed declined to suspend their licenses for the incidents. These are people like the guy who operated on the wrong side of his patients skull, the guy who carved his initials into his patients abdomens etc.

    You would think that after 30 years of schooling doctors - SCIENCISTS - would be intelligent enough to seek actual EVIDENCE to support their absurd claims; even the AMA disagrees with them! You'd think that GOOD doctors (and there are many) would be tired of paying exorbitant fees to subsidize the negligence of their incapable colleagues. You'd also think they'd be intelligent enough to bother examining the various mergers in the insurance industry and price increases in the face of decreased competition before leaping to absurd claims regarding jury awards and civil suits.

    Bottom line: I'd like to see a comparable database of every doctor in the United States with every incident of potential malpractice, lawsuits, complaints, or peer review comprehensivlely outlined and available to the public. I'd like to see doctors held to a national standard of quality, put on suspension when there actions merit it, and suspended when they cross a threshold like ANY OTHER PROFESSION (say hello to the Bar). Will we see these things in the near future? No, because doctors have no interest in policing themselves and facing up to the truth of the situation.

    The whole thing just makes me ill.

  • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:17PM (#8494379)
    I've been wondering where skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums would eventually lead. This sucks, but something like this had to happen, eventually.

    We want a perfect medical system where mistakes are minimized as much as possible, which lawsuits will encourage. But the cost adds up in terms of the risk that this system exposes individual doctors to--basically, being sued out of business. Every doctor will make a mistake at some point in his/her career, and that mistake might cost him/her everything.

    Strangely, though, the availability of insurance screws this up. Those huge punitive awards are meant to pressure doctors not to screw up, but since virtually every practicing doctor has insurance, the cost of a lawsuit is spread over all of the doctors in terms of high insurance premiums. Since the pressure isn't specifically directed to punish the doctor that screws up (more so than any other doctor), its impact is limited.

    And actually, those huge damage amounts are also a side-effect of insurance. You can't impose a $50-million judgement on a doctor who might be worth $1-3 million or so. Juries get a lot more open to imposing huge awards when they realize that the direct payee of the award is a faceless insurance company. Of course, everybody gets hurt on the back end, but that rarely occurs to anyone.

    Honestly, it makes a lot more sense to cap/eliminate punitive awards in these cases, and to impose mandated penalties on doctors who lose malpractice cases: revoke medical licenses, ban from practice for a specified period. It's not perfect, but it won't end up being as expensive as the current mechanisms.
  • by Killswitch1968 ( 735908 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:19PM (#8494387)
    In California there is a massive shortage of obstetricians (baby-deliverers) because it's such a risky job. If the baby is still born the parents will find someway to blame someone; it's just a natural reaction to a tragedy.
    Unfortunately this leads to many trials that are unwarranted and yet the parents still win. Now you almost have to leave the state if you want to have a baby.
  • by Geancanach ( 652302 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:20PM (#8494391)
    If you want doctors to perform high-risk procedures (like delivering babies, certain surgeries, etc), you have to protect them from lawsuits. Many obstetricians have decided to stop delivering babies in certain states because getting malpractice insurance is too expensive - over $200,000 a year in some cases. This is largely due to the fact that if *anything* goes wrong in the delivery room, even things that no one could prevent, the parents often sue.

    It is nice to say that a doctor should treat everyone and not discriminate against lawsuit-happy patients, but that is just not possible. A physician will not be able to stay in business if he or she picks up too many patients like that.

    Another thing - If doctors can't pay for malpractice insurance, they can simply stop performing risky procedures or treating patients who have uncertain prognoses. But then who will care for the patients who only have a small chance of recovery? Will a doctor want to risk having the patient die and then having the family sue?
  • I love it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ahoehn ( 301327 ) * <andrew@NoSpAm.hoe.hn> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:20PM (#8494395) Homepage
    I love Slashdot.

    Damn Government, trying to censor information that wants to be free.

    Damn doctors, thinking up new ways to share information.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:21PM (#8494403)
    The list would be more aceptable if both sides faced a limit on the number of entries. Any doctor submitting too many blacklist candidates is probably incompetent -- one has to wonder why they are being sued so often. And any patient getting too many blacklist submissions is probably a litigious scammer.

    If both sides faced consequences for participating on the blacklist, both sides would be more careful about what they do.
  • by themexican ( 245083 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:23PM (#8494423)
    As someone who grew up in and around doctors offices the vast majority of medical lawsuits at least in our small Texas town were brought by a small number of pathological people. Literally any visit to a doctor's office would be followed by a lawsuit.

    While there are certainly people with valid complaints and suits, in my experience the system is so abused that this is a sad but logical outcome of years of frivolous suits.
  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:51PM (#8494597) Homepage Journal
    What if you were a Doctor and Darl McBride was your patient? How would feel about treating him? Knowing that sooner or later he would sue you if you made the slightist miscalulation - like not ordering an entire body CAT scan after he complained of cold related symptoms.

    Also, Remember the lady that was supposedly stampeded at a Walmart sale around Christmas? Well it turns out that she has been pulling that stunt on several occasions and reaping a settlement each time. Would you like to treat her as a Doctor?

    There are, it seems people that are born to sue.

    The creation of this list is just a defensive reaction against are increasing litigious society.

  • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:36PM (#8494852) Homepage Journal
    Nice to know that you can get blacklisted for suing the doctor that caused massive brain damage to your kid

    And it's nice to know you're adept at expressing a biased, one-sided comment that absolutely destroys any credibilty you had in posting on this very complex topic of doctors and lawsuits.
  • by Mycroft_514 ( 701676 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:50PM (#8494933) Journal
    In the last three months, I have picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy, only to find out twice that I had the WRONG medication.

    Once it was clearly labeled wrong and the other time it was the wrong strength medicine in a correctly labeled bottle.

    I recognized the difference in both cases. In my health care, I am the final barrier to a mistake being made.

    So, are we saying that I should be sueing the pharmacy, even though I never took any of the wrong pills?

    How about when I had my first bone marrow biopsy done? I still limp on that hip when a pressure front comes thru (10 years later). Apparently the doctor knicked something when the probe went thru. Should I have sued for that?

    I got the diagnosis of cancer from that test, and they were able to save my life because of it. Was the trade of limping worth my life?

    Common sense is needed here.
  • well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Agrippa ( 111029 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:56PM (#8494969)
    My father is a well respected doctor in my hometown. He's on the board of the Foundation For Othrodonic Research, which is the premier organization for advances in orthodontics.

    My father pays more in medical malpractice insurance than I made last year. He gets sued regularily by people who don't understand basic principals of taking care of their braces. For instance, one of his younger patients decided chowing down on ice cubes was a prudent thing to do. He promptly ripped off one of his braces, which then cut into his lip. His mother sued my father for malpractice.

    Another case my father faced was when a teen didn't want his braces and manually removed them from his teeth. The smart lad stripped off most of the enamel on his teeth as well. My father was sued because the teen lied to his parents and only later in court was it proved my father wasn't at fault.

    It's bogus cases like that drive up malpractice costs. These doctors aren't being greedy. They are trying to save their practices. It's almost no different than blacklisting spammers.

  • As a patient... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ljavelin ( 41345 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @12:22AM (#8495173)
    As a patient who has been on the "wrong side" of malpractice, all I can say is that this blacklist is bullshit.

    In my case, the surgeon performed the wrong procedure on me. He simply didn't read the orders correctly and screwed up.

    Happily, it wasn't a kidney or leg that had to come out. But I can tell you that it put me through a lot of pain, left permanent damage, and was just a huge crappy event in my life.

    Being young at the time (under 20), I was stupid and didn't sue. Should have. This guy had no real right to practice. I'd be happy if he couldn't afford his malpractice insurance. This guy shouldn't have been in the business, and it would have been good for EVERY ONE of his patients if I sued his ass off. Why anyone would want to keep this guy in the business is beyond me.

    So don't tell me about doctors needing relief. I have several friends who are MDs, and they're all doing just fine and have little to complain about. Perhaps it's only the bottom feeders who have this problem.

    After all, there are many lousy doctors out there. Just ask any doctor.

Adapt. Enjoy. Survive.