I feel compelled to respond to Alan Mortensen's letter suggesting that E.R. doctors are not entitled to the increased protection from lawsuits offered by Rep. Sheryl Allen's bill. I, like Mr. Mortensen, am a Davis County attorney, but unlike Mr. Mortensen who "represents the victims of medical negligence," I defend doctors who, in most cases, are themselves victims of baseless lawsuits. Mr. Mortensen is a friend, and an attorney for whom I have great respect, but I think he misses the point of Rep. Allen's bill. I believe that all physicians deserve increased protection from lawsuits, but E.R. doctors are unique in that they often face immediate, traumatic injuries and illnesses.
They do not have the luxury of reviewing prior medical records, consulting with specialists, or reviewing medical texts and journals before being forced to make a diagnosis and implement a treatment plan. They are one of the most often sued doctors and hence, deserve increased protection from lawsuits.
Mr. Mortensen also misses the point on the fallout from the ever-increasing number of lawsuits brought against physicians. While the increasing cost of medical malpractice insurance is certainly a societal problem that must be addressed, the more immediate problem is the meteoric rise in medical insurance premiums. We all pay the price of baseless medical malpractice lawsuits. I do not use the word "baseless" lightly.
As Mr. Mortensen acknowledged, "Doctors win over 70 percent of the time in court." Not all cases go to court (trial), but this statistic is a telling indicator of the validity of most lawsuits brought against doctors.
The explosion of lawsuits brought against doctors is not, in my opinion, a result of increased negligence by doctors; rather, it is a result of plaintiffs' law firms that saturate us with advertisements in phone books, billboards, TV and radio, encouraging us all to sue, among others, doctors.
Mr. Mortensen's firm, to its credit, is not an advertising firm. Medical malpractice claims are unbelievably expensive to defend (thanks in large part to $500 an hour experts out of Boston). One of the last big cases in which I was involved cost over half a million to defend.
We all pay for that--in the form of increased medical insurance premiums.
I say we all deserve a break from the consequences of advertising attorneys who are looking for their 30 percent (minimum) piece of the pie. I applaud Rep. Allen's attempts to protect us all from the effects of medical malpractice claims, and I don't question her motives. I believe all physicians should receive similar protections.
George T. Naegle
Defense Research Institute
Utah Defense Lawyers Association