You hear about doctors’ inability to get malpractice insurance. You hear about malpractice insurers leaving certain states because of the many malpractice lawsuits. You hear about premiums going up. What you don’t hear about are the legitimate claims.
Take, for instance, the recent report regarding a cancer physician in Montgomery, AL. On Thursday, October 25, 2007, the Alabama Medical Licensure Commission fined Dr. David Gay Morrison $266,000.00 and ordered him to surrender his medical license. Why? Allegedly, Dr. Morrison prescribed unnecessary medications and treatments to 19 patients which nearly killed a 57 year old leukemia patient by ordering chemotherapy which sent the woman into cardiac arrest. According to cancer experts, the woman could have been treated on an outpatient basis with simple medication to control her white blood cell count.
Should this doctor not be liable to his patients for such unnecessary treatment? Should this doctor not be financially punished for such treatment? Should the insurance company which insured the doctor (if he had insurance) be responsible for not investigating his practice? Should damages be capped because of a falsely created insurance problem (rates go up because of the financial markets and company profits, not lawsuits – see our earlier post)? Or, do you want to be able to bring a claim against a doctor who makes a mistake because he’s incompetent or because he performed surgery under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
These are questions we usually don’t ask until we are in the situation. Maybe we should start asking them.