Pa. Malpractice Protest to Begin April 28

April 21, 2003

Frustrated by the reported lack of substantive action by Pennsylvania to reform medical liability insurance, physicians throughout the state will exercise their constitutional right to protest beginning April 28.

The purpose of the protests are to unite physicians and patients together, so as a combined force they could inform the government what patient access to care will become if the state fails to alleviate a problem that is forcing Pennsylvania’s physicians out of state. Physicians are calling on lawmakers to set caps on non-economic damages at $250,000, along with several other measures that will stop the medical community’s revolving door.

Participating Pennsylvania doctors have cancelled all non-elective surgeries, office visits and other routine care during the protest. Physicians will reportedly not leave emergency patients at risk during the protest. Healthcare in Pennsylvania will operate on a Sunday schedule. Emergency Rooms will remain open where doctors will be on-call. Patients will be triaged according to the severity of their complaints. Hospitals and physicians throughout the region are reportedly fully equipped to handle any emergency, and patients with ongoing life sustaining treatment such as dialysis, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, should see no disruption.

“Pennsylvania patients have already lost 1,100 physicians, and we need to stop the hemorrhaging before one more physician is forced out of business,” said James Tayoun, D.O., president, Politically Active Physicians Association. “Pennsylvania has been designated a ‘code blue’ state by the American Medical Association in terms of its medical liability insurance crisis. Physicians know how to react to a code blue, but it seems that our leaders in Harrisburg do not.”

Independent study after independent study reportedly concludes that any effective legislation includes a cap on non-economic damages of a jury award. A recent April 2003 study by Milliman USA — an Independent Actuary company – reportedly concludes that large states with caps on non-economic damages have below-average medical loss costs for physicians. Conversely, the large states without caps have the highest medical malpractice costs. Pennsylvania was number one on a list of the 15 largest states. Losses per physician averaged 171 percent higher than the national average.

“Patients, not trial lawyers, deserve more compensation. Placing caps on non-economic damages, while allowing for unlimited economic damages, will allow this to happen,” added Anthony Coletta, M.D., a member of P.A.P.A. “Patients must realize that this protest is about health care being delivered by the best doctors in Pennsylvania. The best and the brightest are leaving. Right now, the system is in favor of the trial lawyers and this makes patients and physicians the real losers in a battle they can ill afford to lose.”

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