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Doctor-bashing: Time to put an end to it

Dear Editor:

Today I woke up to the tugging little fingers of my 2-year-old, whose first words this morning were “wake up, it’s a beautiful day daddy.”

As a surgeon engrossed in the malpractice debate, which has pretty much consumed me at this point, I went downstairs and scoured the papers online. Even more than usual, I can hardly believe the malignant rhetoric in letters in various newspapers written by people like Denise Gordon or Gerald Palewski or others whose names escape me; angry people who seem to have no shortage of doctor-bashing commentary or column-inches in Pa. newspapers. I continue to be amazed at the disingenuousness of people like Paul Lyon and Robert Powell of The Committee For Justice For All and Dan Fee of the PA Citizens for Fairness, who attempt to further bash the physician community and alienate us from our patients by falsely and deliberately linking Pennsylvania’s doctors to Big Tobacco.

Between the newspaper editorials and bitter malcontents like Gordon and others, the legislators, the doctor-bashing trial lawyer front “consumer” groups, why not just line up every surgeon in Pa. and put a bullet in the back of their heads• Although soon there won’t be any left to shoot.

Gordon states that our state’s physicians only want “lower insurance costs and immunity against lawsuits.”

Are there any physicians or citizens of Pa. with an ounce of sanity who don’t think that $100,000 a year for liability insurance is just plain ridiculous•

As for the immunity she speaks of, Gordon ought to actually listen to the debate instead of blowing off her endless malignant rhetoric, and then she’d know that doctors believe legitimate malpractice victims should be made economically whole. And unlike other civilized countries with functioning legal systems that award nothing for pain and suffering, physicians in Pa. also advocate for an additional $250,000 for pain and suffering. This hardly qualifies as asking for immunity.

Unlike plaintiff attorneys, physicians admit to mistakes. We are only human. Sometimes, though, in our endeavor to cure diseases and alleviate pain and suffering, bad outcomes, not necessarily malpractice, result despite trying our hardest. What Gordon and others like her refuse to admit, in their bitterness and contempt for the medical profession, is the staggering 70 percent error rate by the trial bar in malpractice cases. Not once have I seen the trial bar take even the slightest responsibility for contributing to the malpractice crisis, while watching them point the finger of blame in every direction but their own — including at Pennsylvania’s senior citizens, in their most recent attempt to deflect responsibility.

I believe Big Law and their spokespeople are the ones asking for immunity here.

In another letter, Attorney Robert Powell has the gall to link Big Tobacco and physicians in an attempt to demonize physicians and frighten the very people he feigns to protect. The only thing that Big Tobacco (as well as Big Auto, Big Gun Maker, Big Pharmaceutical and Big Fast Food) and the health care industry now have in common is that we are all being attacked and decimated by Big Law. Personal injury lawyers, like Mr. Powell and Mr. Specter and Mr. Gismondi profess to be the Robin Hoods of society while, in reality, they take 40 percent of the pot, siphoning off billions of health care dollars into their own coffers, and leaving legitimately injured victims to foot the bill for expenses and collect about 38 percent of each award or settlement. In the meantime, Big Law leaves another once functional industry decimated in its endless path of destruction through society.

Gordon than touts the jury system that has served our country for 200 years. Is this the same jury system that acquitted O.J. Simpson?

An entire multibillion dollar industry exists that teaches personal injury lawyers, through seminars and multimedia, how to pick jurors. Physicians are then asked to trust a jury of our peers as we watch those peers scrutinized to death by plaintiff attorneys, in a process that can often last longer than the case itself, until the most favorable 12 are chosen. Why is it that none of my colleagues or myself have ever been chosen to serve as a juror in a malpractice case• Maybe we will agree to trust a “jury of our peers” if the plaintiff bar agrees to trust the voters on whether or not they want caps on pain and suffering.

Texas recently trusted its citizens to make that decision and they decided to maintain access to quality physicians by voting yes to a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering.

Gordon’s letter unintentionally demonstrates why overly aggressive trial lawyers need to be muzzled. The barrage of TV commercials, advertisements that promise riches in return for questioning your physician, even if nothing untoward has occurred, has needlessly soured many doctor-patient relationships. These ads prey upon the poor and elderly as most cases find for the physician. Denise Gordon concludes her rant by “thanking god for trial lawyers.” She may thank god for trial lawyers until she or a loved one ends up in an empty emergency room, requiring a physician who has relocated to Indiana or retired early, thanks to the trial bar she so vigorously defends.

The hostile and adversarial nature of our broken legal system has harmed countless innocent doctors and will likely harm untold numbers of future patients. As I listen to the sweet innocent voice of my 2-year-old, I finish perusing the papers for the day, and then I pore through the job offers on my desk, all of which will remove me from this malignant environment.

I look at my 2-year-old and think about how the days in Pa. will be much more beautiful when we repair our broken legal system and restore the once coveted physician-patient relationship.

Scot D. Paris, M.D., FACS,

Collegeville, e-mail


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