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AMA to Cleveland Plain Dealer: Meritless lawsuits influence physicians

Aug. 24, 2011(published)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The latest study of physicians' experiences with medical liability claims paints a bleak picture and bolsters the case for national- and state-level reform to rein in a broken legal system that invites abuse ("Study: Only 1 in 5 malpractice claims leads to a payout," Thursday). However, the study author's attempt to downplay incentives to file meritless claims is inconsistent with the fact that 40 percent of claims against physicians lack evidence of patient injury or medical error.

Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped or decided in favor of physicians, the understandable fear of meritless lawsuits can profoundly influence which medical specialty physicians choose, where they practice and when they retire. This litigious climate limits patients' access to care at a time when we are also facing a shortage of physicians and other health care professionals.

Preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing costs, will require proven medical liability reforms to restore fairness in the civil justice system.

Peter W. Carmel, MD
President, American Medical Association