Study Finds Doctors, Patients Suffer from Med-Mal Issues

March 14, 2003

High medical malpractice rates were topic of a recent press conference held by the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (TAOG), at which the organization released the results of a survey of patients and physicians that found medical malpractice to be a problem for doctors and patients alike.

Negative medical malpractice issues were forcing doctors to leave the state or change location because of current laws in place, the study found. Doctors are also retiring early, leaving their practice due to insurance increases, or finding it difficult to recruit (especially OB/GYN specialty) new doctors.

Patients are losing their doctors because of the high costs of medical malpractice lawsuits and insurance. In addition, the survey also found that healthcare costs and other fees are increasing while services are being limited.

At the press conference, held at the Texas Capitol, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst promised to work to lower med mal rates and called the results of the TAOG survey “troubling.”

According to Dewhurst, the survey reinforces what the legislature has been concerned about for some time, that medical malpractice rates have gone through the ceiling. Frivolous malpractice lawsuits, which end up with a verdict of no merit, are creating a crisis by driving up professional liability insurance premiums, he said.

Among the key findings of the report are:

· Nearly all physicians (96 percent) and more than 60 percent of patients surveyed believe the money awarded to patients when they win medical malpractice lawsuits is too high. In fact, 77 percent of patients responding believe that medical malpractice lawsuits are filed too often.
· Both groups (100 percent of the physicians and more than 80 percent of the patients) surveyed would like to limit how much a personal injury trial lawyer makes from winning a medical malpractice lawsuit.
· A law limiting the award amounts for pain and suffering while still allowing for patients’ full compensation for out-of-pocket expenses in medical malpractice lawsuits was heavily favored by both groups. More than 90 percent of physicians and more than 70 percent of the patients surveyed agreed with the creation of this type of law.

The poll also found that the majority of doctors and patients surveyed agreed on several solutions to combat the problem of medical malpractice, including:

· The law should be changed to limit awards for pain and suffering and limiting the money a personal injury trail lawyer can receive in medical malpractice cases.
· Quality assurance should be instituted for personal injury trial lawyers who frequently present “experts” not qualified to testify in medical malpractice cases.
· The costs of medical malpractice insurance should be examined in an effort to make this more affordable for doctors so that dramatic increases do not push them out of business.

More information on the report can be found on the TAOG Web site at

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