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Victims of medical malpractice
by Jane Marshall


May 09, 2005

To the Editor:

If victims of medical malpractice were not involved, I would find AMA executive director Jim Jordan's toying with facts and Sen. Ralph Seekins' toying with syntax and logic amusing.

Both the AMA and Seekins have used attraction and retention of doctors as one of the main arguments for Senate Bill 67, which lowers the cap on noneconomic damages from $400,000 to $250,000.

When Jordan was asked if he could accurately say that doctors are leaving the state, he acknowledged that there are more doctors in Alaska than in the past, but that the state still has not experienced a significant improvement in the per-capita number of doctors.

The number of state-licensed doctors per 1,000 residents has increased steadily, from 1.5 in 1985 to more than 3.5 in 2004. Surely that is a significant improvement in the per-capita number of doctors.

Seekins said that few awards ever reach the current caps or even the lower ones proposed in his bill. However, he added, the caps make a difference to the insurance companies that provide malpractice coverage to healthcare providers. Seekins also said he could not guarantee that his bill would do anything to reduce rates. Surely Seekins is supposed to represent victims of medical malpractice and doctors as well as insurance companies.

Seekins said he sympathizes with some of the egregious medical malpractice cases cited by detractors of his bill. "I think we have to hope," he said, "that there aren't those egregious cases like that, but at the same time provide reasonable health care, reasonable prices, a reasonable number of doctors."

What I hear is forget logic, forget the facts, forget the victims. What I don't hear is that there is any guarantee that tort reform will work. What I don't hear is compassion for victims of medical malpractice.

The big question is who, other than insurance companies, will benefit from this charade. Surely someone must or why is the game afoot.

Jane Marshall
Clarksville, TN - USA



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