Patients, doctors need some relief

News Times Staff

March 14 was “Doctors Day” at the State Capitol. Several local physicians took a day off to attend this annual event which gives doctors and lawmakers a chance to discuss issues that affect the health-care system in Connecticut.

Among the many issues discussed were getting approval for drugs from HMOs and providing care to children without insurance.

However, the issue that still was uppermost on physicians’ minds was the questionable way in which the medical liability system treats doctors.

One doctor pointed out that only about 40 percent of the money in a liability suit goes to the injured patient. The rest goes to lawyers and court fees. 

Another mentioned how the threat of medical lawsuits forces doctors to order unnecessary tests and consultations wasting billions of dollars that raise the cost of health care for everyone.

Although doctors’ liability premiums have not risen in the past few years, they still remain so high that many doctors have a hard time paying for them and keeping their offices open.

But in addition to the high prices of insurance, many doctors feel that the threat posed by the current system, which is based on being adversarial and destroying a doctor in order to “win” a case, has taken much of the satisfaction out of medical practice.

There have been a few alternatives proposed to remedy the situation. The most promising is a “health court” presided over by a judge with special training in health care.

These unique courts would eliminate the perverse incentives that some lawyers take advantage of to exploit physicians. They would get money to injured patients quickly, cut down on defensive medicine and protect doctors from the injustice of having their careers destroyed.

Some lawmakers liked this new idea. Special health courts should receive special consideration because doctors and patients will benefit.

Edward J. Volpintesta, M.D.


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