Turkish doctors reluctant on malpractice insurance

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Insurance companies in Turkey are not happy with premium figures for medical malpractice insurance, and they complain of a lack of awareness and an absence of regulations that lead many doctors to opt out of this insurance.

In 2007 close to 5 million operations, from small to large procedures, were performed by doctors in Turkey and, in some cases, a doctor’s mistake has resulted in death or permanent damage to the patient. Just last month, in the western city of Denizli, Emine Çalık, who was scheduled for surgery to address a gastrointestinal disorder, lost her uterus in a surgery mix-up. The incident was widely covered in the Turkish media and resulted in calls for an overhaul of the rules of medical liability. According to the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization chartered by the US National Academy of Sciences, at least 1.5 million Americans fall victim to hospital errors every year. Doctors can lose their licenses or face bankruptcy when faced with high compensation bills stemming from errors in surgery. Though in Turkey the regulations governing the medical profession are not that strict, the harmonization of Turkish law with the norms of the European Union may force Turkey to adopt stringent rules for preventing medical mistakes.

Hasan Ekmen, partner and general manager of Vizyon Sigorta A.Ş, laments the fact that doctors in Turkey pay little attention to malpractice insurance. Speaking to Today’s Zaman, he said the issue has not been resolved because hospitals want doctors to foot the bill for malpractice insurance, while doctors argue that the obligation falls on the hospitals. Ekmen also notes that the insurance industry is not fully prepared for a consumer market that is interested in such a product, either. Some insurance companies do not even offer professional liability insurance, while others are asking the government to come up with a special fund for the risks of the medical profession.

Anadolu Sigorta, the national giant in the sector, concedes that the growth of malpractice insurance in Turkey is painstakingly slow. In a written statement issued to Today’s Zaman, company officials said they do not have many clients insured for malpractice. The premiums, they say, are determined by the doctor’s specialization and can range from YTL 845 all the way up to YTL 750,000 per year. “The amount of coverage also determines the monthly premiums,� Ekmen says. For instance, the premiums for a general practitioner or dentist are YTL 150 per year for YTL 50,000 in liability coverage. An OB/GYN practitioner or a plastic surgeon, on the other hand, will pay YTL 450 for the same coverage.

If the insured wants to increase liability coverage to YTL 250,000, a general physician needs to pay YTL 350, and an OB/GYN practitioner must pay YTL 950. The highest coverage available in Turkey is YTL 750,000, while the lowest is YTL 50,000. Generally there is no deductible in the policy for malpractice insurance. The insurance protects doctors from malpractice lawsuits that might arise from procedures while the policy is in effect and can provide coverage for up to two years. The payment to the patient who files the lawsuit will go forward only after a court verdict. The standard liability insurance does not provide compensation in some cases unless an additional supplemental policy is purchased from the insurance company.

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