My commentary published in The Washington Times, April 4, 2011:
Trial lawyer lobby endangers medicine
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is right on the money in vetoing a medical malpractice bill and noting that “increasing the medical-malpractice cap will ultimately lead toward higher health care costs for doctors, hospitals, businesses, and most importantly, patients” (“Medical-malpractice bill facing likely veto override,” Metro, Friday).
A recent study of orthopedic surgeons found that defensive medicine accounted for 35 percent of total costs. Defensive imaging accounted for 20 percent of total tests. A report of the study concluded, “Besides hurting your wallet and adding to health care costs, unnecessary tests can expose people to radiation that accumulates over a lifetime and can raise the risk of cancer.”
Overlooked in legislators’ rush to please the trial lawyers’ lobby is the fact that malpractice is one of several factors pushing some of our best physicians out of medicine. The American Association of Medical Colleges recently noted, “Between now and 2015, the shortage of doctors across all specialties will quadruple.” An Investor's Business Daily poll during the health care overhaul debate found that “two of every three practicing physicians oppose” Obamacare and “hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted.” In addition, nine of 10 faith-based physicians are ready to quit medicine absent strong conscience protections, which the last Congress failed to enact.
Unless lawmakers address these threats to patient access and tamp down costs resulting from unjust medical malpractice lawsuits, pretty soon there won’t be many physicians left for trial lawyers to sue.