Fighting Mad Doctors’ Disease

Published on

Marketplace – National Public Radio

The following commentary was broadcast on Wednesday, April 28th on Marketplace (national public radio) – You can also listen to it here:

DAVID BROWN, anchor: Perhaps you’ve seen the TV news pictures of doctors marching en masse in the streets demanding government caps on what juries can award injured patients. We’ve heard of doctors leaving the profession because insurance is just too expensive, but this month Jury Verdict Research released a study that questions the proposition bigger malpractice awards are the root of rising insurance claims. In fact, in 2002, jury awards in such cases were flat. Commentator and consumer activist Jamie Court offers his own diagnosis.

JAMIE COURT: Mad doctors disease is out of control. Striking doctors are not targeting insurance companies even though their profits went up a 1000 percent last year. Or threatening the few doctors who commit the majority of malpractice. They’re targeting patients. Texas physicians recently created a Web site to blacklist patients who have sued for malpractice by not treating them. Some doctors in Florida want their colleagues to stop treating plaintiff’s lawyers. Others want patients to sign contracts agreeing not to file a frivolous lawsuit before they even get treated.

So what’s a patient to do when their doctor starts to show signs of this dementia? Start with some simple math. America spends more on dog and cat food each year than all medical malpractice payouts combined. Malpractice costs are a fraction of 1 percent of all health-care costs, but prescription drugs are 16 percent. So the next time your physician writes a prescription, ask for the generic. It won’t be long before doctors stop getting those handouts of
Polynesian junkets from pharmaceutical reps who want them to push the most expensive drugs. Then there are those physicians who swear their fanatical fear of losses is driving them to prescribe unnecessary tests just to cover themselves. Consult the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. It found so-called “defensive medicine” accounts for very few tests. So if your doctor’s doubts about doing too many tests persist, report them to your HMO. The HMO will remind them very quickly that they’ll be fired if they do anything unnecessary or even much that is.

Early awareness is key to stopping any disease. Let’s start with wearing a button that reads, “Remember Hippocrates.” After all, didn’t the Hippocratic Oath say, ‘First, do no harm,’ not, ‘End accountability for those who do harm.’ Mad doctors must be stopped one head at a time before they infect the whole herd. In Los Angeles, this is Jamie Court for MARKETPLACE.

BROWN: Consumer activist Jamie Court is author of “Corporateering.”
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