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AMA to Columbus Dispatch: Doctors’ liability affects access to care

Aug. 28, 2011(published)

Columbus Dispatch
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 ("Lawsuits against doctors usually fail," Associated Press article, Aug. 18 Dispatch). However, the study author’s attempt to downplay incentives to file meritless claims is not consistent with the fact that 40 percent of claims have no evidence of a patient injury or medical error.

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