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Medical Malpractice Suits Down in Pennsylvania

Our Administrative Office Of Pennsylvania Courts just reported that malpractice suits are down 10% from last year to 1508 from 1675 in 2011. In Philadelphia, our State's largest venue for malpractice suits, the number of cases was 389, the second lowest in a decade. Why? In 2002, the Legislature pased the MCARE Act which changed the landscape of many issues, particularly expert opinion evidence and damages. The Supreme Court also promulgated a number of rules, including a venue rule that requires a malpractice suit to be brought in the county where the event occurred and a Certificate of Merit rule designed to assure physician based probable cause to initiate a case. The trend as a result of the "reforms" has shown a statewide drop in cases without more drastice measures such as capping damages. Doctors are not leaving the State, specialities are covered, but errors continue at an unacceptable rate. And, with all the reform and resultant reduction in the number of lawsuits, premiums have not gone down as the carriers enjoy record profit. Truth: Only 1 in 5 medical malpractice cases pay so lawyers are only bringing meritorious cases with causally related damages that warrant the long term costly commitment to litigation. Truth: About 7.5% of doctors have a claim filed against them each year with fewer than 2% of doctors each year subject to a successful claim where an insurer had to pay a settlement or court judgment. Truth: The sum of medical malpractice payment made on behalf of doctors is only about 0.12% of total U.S. healthcare costs; the total cost of medical liability insurance is only about 0.36% of total healthcare costs. It's long overdue that Doctors and Hospitals unite against the carriers, government and industry that deny them fair reimbursement, that turn their offices into billing departments requiring computerized physician-patient records that are destroying the communication needed for proper differential diagnosis and treatment. The problem is not with trial lawyers or the American tort system. It is time to stand up or there willl some day be a nationalized medical standard of care and remedial system to address error where patient rights and safety are lost and the profession of medicine is reduced to systematic practices set by the government and industry.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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