Docs to Lawmakers: Fix Malpractice Crisis

December 13, 2004

Western Maryland doctors are demanding relief from the skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates that have driven some of them out of business.

Frederick’s two senators and six local delegates listened to doctors who gathered Saturday at a county hearing. The delegation hears from the public each year before the 90-day session in Annapolis, which begins in January.

Delegation chairman Paul Stull acknowledged the importance of the debate and said malpractice will be the number one issue of the next session.

Malpractice insurance rates have been driven up by the “feeding frenzy” of trial lawyers taking advantage of a “broken system,” said Dr. Steven Brand of the Foris Surgical Group, a surgical practice that will close its doors in January.

“I’m here for my patients and my future patients and the citizens of Maryland who are being hurt by a huge litigation lottery,” Brand said.

Doctors targeted by lawsuits are victims of “senseless medical litigation,” said Dr. Mark Artusio, a general surgeon with Foris.

Senators who are also trial lawyers stand in the way of any substantive reform, Artusio charged. He mentioned Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Sen. Brian Frosh, chairman of the Judiciary Proceedings Committee, where the issue died in a 7-4 vote earlier this year.

Artusio said trial lawyers should step out of the debate because of a conflict of interest.

Sen. David Brinkley said doctors were finally gaining ground on recalcitrant lawmakers. “They are cogs in the wheel, and they’re feeling the pressure,” he said.

Dr. Gerrit Schipper, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said he would leave Frederick OB/GYN Professional Group in January after more than 20 years in practice. His colleague, Dr. Leonard Bienkowski, said he will wait a year, then decide if he can still afford to remain.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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