N.Y. Medical Staff Leadership Says Malpractice Lawsuits Threaten Services

June 11, 2003

The results of a new survey of Long Island physicians were released reportedly showing malpractice lawsuits at epidemic levels and growing numbers of doctors considering restricting or leaving their practice.

The survey, conducted by the New York Medical Staff Leadership Council, found that over two thirds of physicians report having been sued for malpractice. This includes an overwhelming 97.6 percent of Orthopedic Surgeons, 91.6 percent of General Surgeons, and 90.67 percent of Obstetrician/Gynecologists.

This proliferation of malpractice lawsuits, reportedly fueled largely by lawyers seeking jackpot jury awards, is forcing doctors to consider limiting or leaving their practice.

On Long Island, 60 percent of physicians say that they have or are considering limiting their practices to reduce their medical liability exposure. Over 70 percent of Obstetrician/Gynecologists are considering dropping their obstetrical practice, while over two-thirds of Orthopedic Surgeons and 62 percent of General Surgeons are considering restricting their availability for responding to Emergency Room calls. Over 67 percent of physicians say that they may retire early because of concerns about liability exposure and the cost of malpractice insurance premiums.

Fear of lawsuits has reportedly prompted much of the physician community to alter treatment strategy in order to protect them from seemingly inevitable lawsuits.

Over 95 percent of surveyed physicians report practicing defensive medicine, ordering of extra tests, procedures and visits and limiting high-risk patients in order to reduce potential liability. Practicing defensive medicine contributes to an enormous waste of medical resources, which drives up the cost of health insurance premiums.

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