Letter to the editorMarch 28, 2003
As the holder of an M.B.A. degree, it should be no surprise to Ashish Shah that, hypothetically, if a jury awards multi-million dollar damages to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case, the malpractice insurer of the physician/defendant in the case must pay the bulk (if not all) of the judgment against the physician, and to some degree, any legal fees incurred by the defense of the physician during the case.
To extend the concept, if a group of physicians who use the same malpractice insurer have a physician among them against whom is rendered a multi-million dollar judgment in a malpractice case, the insurance company then is likely to raise the premiums of not only the physician involved in the case, but also the rest of the policyholders, such that enough money is channeled through the insurance company to cover the malpractice lawsuit costs, overhead, and ideally, to make a profit as well.
If physicians now must pay a greater percentage of their gross income to cover malpractice insurance premiums, in addition to addressing other costs associated with their practice, and still make enough money for themselves and their families to survive, where must the additional income come from? The answer: patients.
It is true that physicians make mistakes and that there should be recourse for patients injured or killed by medical malpractice. However, to imply that the current state of medical care in this country is because of the greed and incompetence of physicians, and to then argue that unlimited jury awards be used as a panacea by which to cleanse the profession of its faults, is nothing more than the utterances of ignorance.
Gregory R. Honeycutt
Baylor College of Medicine