Groups Call on Medical Associations to Join Efforts to Reduce Medical Mistakes and Lower Physicians' Insurance Rates
Two consumer organizations cited the public outcry against a doctor run, internet blacklist as the reason the controversial website www.DoctorsKnow.Us has been taken down. Still, medical associations must do more to prevent this type of sinister practice in the future, the groups said. The website, which published a database of Americans who have filed claims against doctors for medical negligence, announced that patients "can sue, but they can't hide," and suggested that doctors choose not to care for patients who had previously been involved in a medical malpractice claim.
The consumer groups -- Texas Watch and the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) -- sent a letter last week to the American Medical Association urging the organization to disavow the website and similar attacks on previously injured patients.
"While we are relieved to see this offensive website, for now at least, no longer exists, we will be diligent in future efforts to prevent arbitrary blacklisting of sick and injured Americans," said Dan Lambe, Executive Director of Texas Watch. "It is imperative that the American Medical Association and state chapters stand up on this issue and denounce this growing trend of vigilante-like blacklisting of innocent patients by a segment of extremist doctors."
The website, and similar attempts by doctors to punish patients around the country, is an outgrowth of the misdirected frustration and anger among physicians facing steep increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums, according to the consumer groups. The medical associations, however, have not challenged insurance industry practices that unnecessarily increase rates. FTCR and Texas Watch said that insurance companies' price gouging in recent years -- an industry-wide response to weak investment returns -- is the real reason that premiums have gone up, and that the medical associations should re-direct their anger toward the insurance companies.
"Rather than question the insurance companies' rates, the AMA has fomented the anti-patient backlash by blaming the entire insurance problem on the injured victims of medical malpractice," said FTCR's executive director Doug Heller. "If physician groups had the nerve to stand up to insurance companies, then doctors would not be getting the message that it's ok to punish patients."
The AMA and state medical associations have aggressively pushed legislation that would restrict the legal rights of patients injured by medical malpractice. The associations focus all the blame for high insurance rates on claims and lawsuits filed by patients and are lobbying for caps on the damages that injured patients can collect. Such caps, as already exist in California, do not lower rates according to the consumer groups and, instead have the effect of making it impossible for many patients with legitimate claims to be reasonably compensated for their injuries.
To date the AMA has not responded to the groups and has refused to criticize the website. The consumer groups say that the national and state associations should be more willing to engage patients and consumer groups in a discussion to address both the cause of high malpractice insurance premiums and the very serious health care crisis associated with medical malpractice among some doctors and hospitals.
According to Rick Beeson of Wichita Falls, Texas, who was placed in the website database:
"My family was on the blacklisting database and we are already being denied care by one doctors group all because their employee's negligence caused severe brain damage to my son, We wish the medical community would focus more attention on getting bad doctors out of the system than on causing further harm to families who have already suffered from medical malpractice."
More detailed data and analysis concerning efforts to reduce doctors' insurance premiums are available at FTCR's medical malpractice resource page.