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Letter to the editor

March 28, 2003

In defense of physicians and medical students across the state of Texas, I feel compelled to respond to the letter submitted by Ashish Shah refuting the necessity of medical liability reform in the state of Texas. I understand Shah's frustration with the long waits at doctors' offices, but the best way to approach the situation is not from the perspective of a disgruntled patient, but rather with a cool head and cold, hard facts.

First, the idea that a general practitioner would make '$400,000' as Shah supposes her physician does is absurd. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the median annual income for family physicians was closer to $125,000. Unless Shah was seeing a plastic surgeon, the speculative attempt at estimating physician income was way off.

Second, Shah should know that the American Medical Association rates Texas in the 'red zone' -- one of 12 states in crisis. In fact, professional liability insurance in the state of Texas has jumped anywhere from 50-200 percent, depending on the specialty.

Third, it is important to note that better than three out of every four liability claims against Texas doctors are dismissed, but each costs an average of $10,000 to defend.

On a more personal note, I would like to point out that while Shah may not want to hear about the years of higher education and subsequent residency physicians-in-training must endure, it is important to keep in mind that with all of that comes a heavy burden -- debt. Nearly 61 percent of graduates from family practice residencies will carry with them a debt exceeding $100,000.

With more than half of all Texas physicians contemplating early retirement because of the skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums, this is an issue no physician or patient in Texas can afford to ignore.

Hayden Schwenk

BS '02