Doctors In Chicago: The more the better

By Ed Murnane

Chicago was crawling with doctors last week — and the previous weekend – and that’s a good thing.

It’s good because Chicago – and many other communities in Illinois – continue to face a doctor shortage and any time we can attract licensed, competent physicians to Illinois, the people of Illinois are the beneficiaries, even if the docs are here for a meeting, and not to spread out through the countryside with stethoscopes attached.

Doctors from around the country were in Chicago for the annual meeting of the Chicago based-American Medical Association.

But while their practices might be in Ohio or California or Utah or elsewhere, the doctors attending the annual meeting of the American Medical Association do understand why their Illinois colleagues might seem distracted.

It’s because Illinois has one of the most hostile legal and political environments in the nation and doctors (and hospitals) are in the cross-hairs.

The recently enacted (2005) and much-needed law to establish reasonable limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases is awaiting a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court and doctors are nervous because of the history of Illinois courts on medical liability.

Physicians would prefer not to have to deal with the constant threat of litigation. Young men and women enter medical schools to learn how to heal and cure patients, not how to sue them.

The AMA’s agenda for educational meetings during the current meeting shows what doctors are interested in: improving patient care, learning new procedures and technology, plus a wide range of other topics intended to help doctors help patients.

That’s in sharp contrast with the agenda of another national organization that held it’s annual meeting in Chicago last year: the American Association for Justice (formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America).

The trial lawyers are meeting in Philadelphia this year and their agenda is likely to include many of the same topics that were discussed in Chicago last year when more than 70 forums on new ways to sue people and institutions were on the agenda.

Here is an excerpt from our commentary last year when AAJ was meeting in Chicago:

In its blog last week, the National Association of Manufacturers listed a handful of AAJ “litigation groups” that are topics of discussion and study and training at this week’s meeting.
NAM listed ten — listed alphabetically and copied from the trial lawyers directory:

Hormone Therapy
Human Bone & Tissue Recovered from Cadavers
Inadequate Security
Interstate Trucking
Kugel Mesh
Laser Eye Surgery Malpractice
Lawn Mowers
Lead Paint
Liquor Liability
Mandatory Arbitration

These are just ten of 77 categories or, as NAM called them, “targets.” NAM selected them as an example.

And while the 77 litigation groups will be meeting this week, a higher level of importance is bestowed on AAJ’s 18 “Practice Sections.”

According to AAJ, practice sections “provide a means for members to unite with others practicing in similar areas of the law. Each Section encompasses an area of litigation practice that is broader than those addressed by litigation groups.”
Here are the AAJ Section Home Pages. The links are from the AAJ website; we’re not sure all are active and valid.
Admiralty Law
Aviation Law
Business Torts
Civil Rights
Criminal Law
Employment Rights
Family Law
Fed.Tort Liability and Military Advocacy
Insurance Law
International Practice
Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway and Premises Liability
Products Liability
Professional Negligence
Railroad Law
Section on Toxic, Environmental, and Pharmaceutical Torts (STEP)
Social Security Disability Law
Sole Practitioner and Small Firm
Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Injury

The AAJ agenda will be similar next month in Philadelphia — probably to include many new topics and potential new ways of initiating litigation.

We’re happy to welcome the doctors from AMA to Chicago (and happy that AMA is headquartered in Chicago) and we’re equally happy that AAJ has taken its show elsewhere.

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