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What’s the doctors’ beef?
Article published on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004
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Trial lawyers and doctors, never a group to cozy up with each other, are pulling out their big guns this election season with three amendments that will appear on the November ballot.

Consider these three amendments part of a package deal since they are specifically meant to take a chunk of hide out of each others’ pocketbooks.

The Florida Medical Association has backed Amendment #3 as a way, it claims, to cap what lawyers make on medical malpractice cases. This amendment would basically limit the lawyers to 70 percent of the first $250,000 on all damages and 90 percent of damages greater that $250,000.

Sounds like a nice idea. Keep more money in the wallets of those seriously injured and out of the pockets of those greedy lawyers.

But the proposed amendments would actually hurt the very people it is meant to help. Patients who are injured by medical professionals have only one way to seek justice – through the courts.

If the government (state constitution) cuts their compensation, attorneys will likely think harder about whether to take on a case.

Greedy or not, they want to ensure that any case will reap some award. That’s the American way. It’s capitalism.

Frankly, one would think the doctors would be standing on every street corner with campaign signs begging voters to vote to reject this amendment. After all, don’t physicians want what’s best for their patients, especially if somebody’s been injured by a doctor?

And it seems to reason that doctors would be imploring their patients to give a resounding “Yes” to amendments #7 and #8.

Backed by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, these two proposals would “review, upon request, records of health care facilities” or providers’ adverse medical incidents, including those which could cause injury or death.

The amendment would even prevent patients names from being released in these most egregious medical malpractice cases.

The second proposed amendment would prohibit “medical doctors who have been found to have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice from being licensed to practice medicine in Florida.”

It’s been dubbed the “Three Strikes and You’re out Law.”

The medical lobby is worried that doctors will run from the state en masse if these two pass.

Why? Are doctors that worried about the way they practice medicine?

To be really blunt, this law should be tightened to force doctors out of the state who have committed just two incidents of medical malpractice.

And hospitals and doctors should favor releasing information about their establishments. Call it a report card.

If your hospital or outpatient surgery office is top notch, you get an A. If it has some minor, but fixable problems, you get a B or a C.

If a funeral home has set up shop next door because it cuts down on the driving time between “pickups,” you get an F.

These three amendments are about holding doctors to a higher standard.

They’re a smart bunch. They can hack it.

Jim Harrington is the editor of the Largo Leader, Clearwater Citizen and Safety Harbor Journal.
Article published on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004
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