Emergency Medicine physicians are gathered in Washington this week calling on their representatives in Congress to approve medical liability reform.
53% of emergency room doctors who were surveyed said the main reason they conduct the number of test they do is fear of being sued. The survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) was released in time for the Washington meetings. ACEP President Sandra Schneider said medical liability reform is essential to meaningful health car reform and without the reform, health care costs will continue to rise. The organization estimates the cost of "defensive medicine" range from $60 billion to $151 billion per year.
Dr. Daniel Wehner, chair of Emergency Medicine for the Connemaugh Health System, says legislation in the House includes protection from liability for emergency physicians like public health providers have. Wehner says emergency doctors are required by federal law and emergency care is considered high risk for malpractice suits because patients are more seriously ill or injured and physicians often don't have access to their medical histories.
Wehner says it would also be more reasonable to hear malpractice suits in special panel courts..."instead of a jury of 12 lay people deciding upon whether medicine was practiced appropriately, to have some scientists aboard on that panel, physicians or other people with some experience in dealing with scientific logical reasoning to decide whether or not there was liability on the part of the physician."
Last week the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts released data that shows in 2010 the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the state dropped for a sixth straight year...down 45.4% since the base years of 2000-02. Those base years were just prior to 2 major rule changes made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: attorneys have to obtain from a medical professional a certificate that established the medical procedures in a case fell outside acceptable standards; and, medical lawsuits can only be brought in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille says progress has been made..."One of our fundamental priorities is to assure the Commonwealth's citizens that the legal process will not be abused in malpractice cases. We're very encouraged by these statistics. The crisis is over."