Survey Reports Malpractice Lawsuits Threaten Healthcare on Long Island

June 12, 2003

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state having problems with medical malpractice claims. According to the results of a new survey of Long Island physicians, conducted by The New York Medical Staff Leadership Council, malpractice lawsuits are “at epidemic levels” causing a growing number of doctors to consider restricting or leaving their practice.

The survey found that over two thirds of the physicians reported having been sued for malpractice. “This includes an overwhelming 97.6% of Orthopedic Surgeons, 91.6% of General Surgeons, and 90.67% of Obstetrician/Gynecologists,” said the bulletin. It blamed “lawyers seeking jackpot jury awards,” and indicated that “60% of physicians say that they have or are considering limiting their practices to reduce their medical liability exposure.”

The number rises to 70 percent for OBGYN’s, more than two-thirds for Orthopedic Surgeons and 62 percent for general surgeons. In addition the report said, “Over 67% of physicians say that they may retire early because of concerns about liability exposure and the cost of malpractice insurance premiums.”

“The shocking results of this survey testify to the outrageous extent to which litigation happy personal injury lawyers have created a climate of widespread fear among physicians,” stated Council Chairman Marc Greenwald, M.D. The organization is composed of the medical staff leaders from hospitals across Long Island and their 4,500 affiliated physicians.

“Personal injury lawyers may argue that since 100% of some physician specialty groups have been sued it is because nearly 100% of these physicians are incompetent,” Dr. Greenwald continued. “Any rational person knows that this is absurd. Health care on Long Island is excellent. But if elected officials and the public don’t take steps to fix this broken system, every person on Long Island will be in danger of losing access to quality healthcare.”

The report analogized the situation on Long island to the Titanic hitting the iceberg, indicating that the consequences are still hidden from public view, but that when they surface they portend disaster, “when the number of available physicians providing the full scope of medical services seems to suddenly evaporate.”

The Council urged legislators to consider the situation, indicating that a solution should be easier to find than the cures for many diseases, presumably by introducing a series of tort reforms including a cap on non-economic damages.

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