Medical Malpractice and the Baltimore Sun

Last week, I wrote about the Baltimore Sun taking a position opposing medical malpractice caps, choosing the new, innovative path of side stepping the substance of this issue and trying to demonize trial lawyers. The Baltimore Sun responded Sunday by printing a letter to the editor offering the opposing view on damage caps, explaining how children who lose a parent by the carelessness of someone else are woefully under-compensated. In other news yesterday, Larry Summers is stepping down from his position as Director of the National Economic Council to co-host The View.

Oh, wait. Those things didn’t happen. Instead, the Sun printed a “me too” editorial from Timonium doctor Mark Hass:

At a time when the nation’s economy is slumping and the governor is proposing to mandate that Maryland hospitals and physicians provide more free care to lower-income families, it’s ironic that the state House Judiciary Committee, led by trial lawyer Joseph F. Vallario Jr., is proposing legislation to roll back the reforms in the state’s medical malpractice insurance policies enacted in 2004 (“Attack of the trial lawyers,” editorial, Feb. 17).

Such a rollback would ultimately result in higher malpractice insurance rates for doctors and hospitals, higher health care costs for consumers, higher health insurance premiums for businesses, and, of course, higher incomes for well-heeled trial lawyers.

Perhaps the “attack” of these lawyers on physicians and hospitals will only abate when enough doctors have left Maryland and enough hospitals have closed that they no longer have anyone left to sue.

Dr. Mark Haas

Again, instead of anything other than cursory, unsupported claims that A equals B, the editorial chose to attack trial lawyers in every paragraph of the letter. It is more anti trial lawyer than it is anti altering the limits on medical malpractice caps. It also blithely ignores that the biggest problem most doctors have with medical malpractice lawsuits is the insurance premiums which decrease their income.

There is nothing wrong with doctors defending their own income. Maryland doctors are entitled to make a lot of money because most have earned it. But can’t we just talk honestly about what the driving force is behind all of this anti trial lawyer garbage and the platitudes about the cost of health care as if Maryland doctors are unbiased advocates without a horse in the race?

Has anyone ever proposed that because the purpose of the malpractice cap is to keep medical malpractice premiums for doctors in check, we should exempt from the cap Maryland doctors making over $300,000 a year? This would go over like a lead balloon to the folks at MedChi and it would underscore that this is not about Maryland lawyers against Maryland doctors, but it is about Maryland patients and Maryland juries against Maryland doctors.

Again, I ardently oppose medical malpractice damages caps in Maryland and support the efforts being made in the Maryland General Assembly to roll back the new malpractice cap that the Maryland legislature was tricked into buying into in 2005. Certainly, reasonable arguments supported by facts can be made opposing my view, but no one is doing this in the Baltimore Sun. Instead, we just get a spate of anti medical malpractice lawyer diatribes that ignore the substantive issues.

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