Doctors Have Consistently Rejected Patient Protections for Five Years

Apr 23, 2001, 01:00 ET from Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association

    HARRISBURG, Pa., April 23 /PRNewswire Interactive News Release/ -- Doctors
 in Southeastern Pennsylvania are closing their offices tomorrow, Tuesday,
 April 24, ostensibly "to educate legislators" about their need for relief from
 rising medical malpractice insurance rates.  But many legislators have been
 down this road before.
     As far back as 1996, in negotiations organized by then Senate Majority
 Leader Joe Loeper, doctors have rejected several proposals for patient safety
 and patient rights offered by the coalition of consumer advocates, attorneys
 and labor representatives.  These disputes continue today.
     Chief among the subjects dismissed by the doctors over the last five years
 is a proposal for patient safety statutes to require that doctors publicly
 disclose all medical malpractice claims paid for the previous 10 years --
 including both trial awards and settlements -- so patients would have access
 to practitioners' records regarding medical errors.  Based on the model of
 Massachusetts' law, the legislation would also have required all doctors to
 pass a course on patient safety to reduce medical errors in the health care
 delivery system as a condition for their medical licenses.
     Another provision doctors refused to consider in the 1996 negotiations is
 a plan to enact strict civil and/or criminal penalties for doctors who alter
 patient charts after a malpractice is claimed.  Evidence indicates that this
 is a prevalent practice among many doctors and hospitals facing medical
 malpractice lawsuits, but the currently weak penalties are not a sufficient
 deterrent to this ethically questionable procedure.
     Patient advocates have also long supported legislation to sanction doctor
 defendants for discouraging medical experts against testifying on behalf of
 injured patients.  The practice is often referred to as the "conspiracy of
 silence."  But, again, the doctors remain vehemently opposed.
     "The doctors have never been interested in fairness," said Mark Phenicie,
 Legislative Counsel for the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, who
 participated in these negotiations. "They want a system that's rigged in their
 favor, regardless of the consequences to injured patients.  Our proposals
 don't hurt good doctors, but they do put a check on the few bad apples."
     Timothy A. Shollenberger, Esquire, PaTLA president, said, "Over the years,
 the doctors built a flawed system to protect their pocketbooks, not their
 patients.  The Congress is calling the incidence of medical errors a 'crisis'.
 The Centers for Disease Control counts medical errors as the eighth leading
 cause of death in this country.  It's time that physicians in Pennsylvania
 take responsibility for their profession and stop blaming everybody but
 themselves."
     A review of recent data from the State Medical Board indicates that not
 one physician or osteopath in Pennsylvania was disciplined for substandard
 care between January 1, 2000 and February 16, 2001.
     "These medical errors are occurring in the health care delivery system,"
 Shollenberger said, "not in law offices or courtrooms.  PaTLA is committed to
 protecting the rights of all parties in Pennsylvania.  We're not going to let
 the doctors forget that there is another side to this issue."
 
     Phenicie added, "This only proves that Pennsylvania doctors have
 successfully inoculated themselves from being accountable for this national
 epidemic.  But patients haven't been that lucky."
 
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association
    HARRISBURG, Pa., April 23 /PRNewswire Interactive News Release/ -- Doctors
 in Southeastern Pennsylvania are closing their offices tomorrow, Tuesday,
 April 24, ostensibly "to educate legislators" about their need for relief from
 rising medical malpractice insurance rates.  But many legislators have been
 down this road before.
     As far back as 1996, in negotiations organized by then Senate Majority
 Leader Joe Loeper, doctors have rejected several proposals for patient safety
 and patient rights offered by the coalition of consumer advocates, attorneys
 and labor representatives.  These disputes continue today.
     Chief among the subjects dismissed by the doctors over the last five years
 is a proposal for patient safety statutes to require that doctors publicly
 disclose all medical malpractice claims paid for the previous 10 years --
 including both trial awards and settlements -- so patients would have access
 to practitioners' records regarding medical errors.  Based on the model of
 Massachusetts' law, the legislation would also have required all doctors to
 pass a course on patient safety to reduce medical errors in the health care
 delivery system as a condition for their medical licenses.
     Another provision doctors refused to consider in the 1996 negotiations is
 a plan to enact strict civil and/or criminal penalties for doctors who alter
 patient charts after a malpractice is claimed.  Evidence indicates that this
 is a prevalent practice among many doctors and hospitals facing medical
 malpractice lawsuits, but the currently weak penalties are not a sufficient
 deterrent to this ethically questionable procedure.
     Patient advocates have also long supported legislation to sanction doctor
 defendants for discouraging medical experts against testifying on behalf of
 injured patients.  The practice is often referred to as the "conspiracy of
 silence."  But, again, the doctors remain vehemently opposed.
     "The doctors have never been interested in fairness," said Mark Phenicie,
 Legislative Counsel for the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, who
 participated in these negotiations. "They want a system that's rigged in their
 favor, regardless of the consequences to injured patients.  Our proposals
 don't hurt good doctors, but they do put a check on the few bad apples."
     Timothy A. Shollenberger, Esquire, PaTLA president, said, "Over the years,
 the doctors built a flawed system to protect their pocketbooks, not their
 patients.  The Congress is calling the incidence of medical errors a 'crisis'.
 The Centers for Disease Control counts medical errors as the eighth leading
 cause of death in this country.  It's time that physicians in Pennsylvania
 take responsibility for their profession and stop blaming everybody but
 themselves."
     A review of recent data from the State Medical Board indicates that not
 one physician or osteopath in Pennsylvania was disciplined for substandard
 care between January 1, 2000 and February 16, 2001.
     "These medical errors are occurring in the health care delivery system,"
 Shollenberger said, "not in law offices or courtrooms.  PaTLA is committed to
 protecting the rights of all parties in Pennsylvania.  We're not going to let
 the doctors forget that there is another side to this issue."
 
     Phenicie added, "This only proves that Pennsylvania doctors have
 successfully inoculated themselves from being accountable for this national
 epidemic.  But patients haven't been that lucky."
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X82494307
 
 SOURCE  Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association