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A Syracuse Medical Malpractice Lawyer Condemns “Gang of Six” Tort Reform Proposal

Rather than focus on improving the quality of medical care as a way to reduce health care costs throughout the United States, the self-dubbed “Gang of Six” has included in their budget proposal plans to save “an unspecified amount through medical malpractice reform.” Even conservative republicans, who traditionally support tort reform because they are financially backed by powerful insurance companies and wealthy hospitals and doctors, believe that federal reform like this is unconstitutional.

“The federal government should not be telling the states whether or how their citizens can use the courts to seek legal redress for their injuries,” said Michael A. Bottar, an upstate New York birth injury lawyer. “Who knows what ‘reform’ means. Typically, ‘reform’ means a cap on recovery for pain and suffering.” Where caps on pain and suffering have passed around the country — usually in the amount of $250,000.00 or $500,000.00 — medical malpractice premiums have not decreased and physicians continue to order the same number of purportedly “defensive” tests. This means that medical malpractice is NOT the reason for rising health care costs.

“A well kept secret is the fact that your orthopedic surgeon probably owns the x-ray or MRI machine where s/he referred you for a study. Likewise, that doctor may also own the outpatient surgery center where s/he sent you for a knee replacement. And your gastroenterologist probably owns the machine and surgical suite used to scope you. This means the doctor is paid up front to treat you in the office, and a second time when you use his/her equipment or facilities.”

“Another well-kept secret is how egregious medical malpractice can be,” Bottar said. “No one knows because almost all New York medical malpractice lawyers and their clients are required to sign a confidentiality agreement when a case settles. Consider this case. An orthopedic spine surgeon practicing in Hawaii (only because he failed to disclose that he had lost his license in other states) was operating on a patient and, after discovering that the titanium rods he needed to implant in the patient’s spine were not in the operating room (and would not arrive for 45 minutes), he cut up steel screwdriver and used pieces of the rod to perform the procedure. The rods which were not manufactured for use in the human body broke two days later and the patient was rendered a paraplegic.” The insurance companies insist on confidentiality because they do not want the public to know about cases like this.

In a state with a pain and suffering cap of $250,000.00, the patient would receive $17.00 a day for the loss of use of his legs. According to the Medical Group Management Association, the median salary for a spine surgeon in 2009 was $669,073.00, with the 90th percentile earning $1,086.528.00. “That’s $1,833.00 to $2,976.00 per day. Sound constitutional to you?”

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