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Contingency fees: The million dollar payday; Democrats hide critical information; "Resisting forces that deny the unquantifiable"
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More articles like Bob Lowes' "Malpractice: Do other countries hold the key?" [July 25] would be most welcome. My only complaint was its excessive use of simplistic opinions from trial lawyers who seemed to be talking to a jury of grade-school graduates.
The bottom line, what lawyers make, was not emphasized enough, though. Let's compare the fees of trial lawyers in the US with those overseas. We can start with 2004 presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), a med mal and personal injury lawyer, who won a verdict of $23 million against an obstetrician in a case involving a child born with brain damage. What's 30% (the typical cut for plaintiffs' attorneys) of $23 million, again?
If such a comparison seems to threaten the vicious contingency rule, which professes to protect the poor while it creates quick wealth for lawyers, let's ask the obvious question: "How are the rights of the poor protected in countries without the contingency rule, like Germany and England?"
From the media's silence on the issue, you'd think there's nothing wrong with a US Senator hiding information critical to an ongoing debate in the Senate. But doctors, in particular, will find something off base here.
On July 9, the Senate, voting along party lines, blocked a tort reform bill that included a cap on noneconomic damages. However, it turns out that the Democratic leader in the floor debate, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, had had access since late June to a GAO report concluding that the primary driver of increasing malpractice insurance rates appears to be losses on malpractice claims.
In other words, the studywhich the Democrats themselves had commissionedsupported the Republican side (the doctors) against the Democratic side (the trial lawyers). So, faced with conclusions they didn't like, the Democrats suppressed the report until after the bill had died in the Senate.
Everyone says the Democratic Party is in the pocket of the trial bar. This is living proof.
You'll find a summary of the report I'm talking about at the GAO Web site at www.gao.gov/highlights/d03702high.pdf.
John Lantos' poetic words ["Memo from the Editor: Paradoxes," Aug. 8] perfectly describe the frustration I sometimes feel when I've truly connected with a patient, providing real assistance in making someone's life healthier, happier, and more meaningful. Then I have to bill a level 3 visit because I didn't cover enough systems on the physical exam or ask enough meaningless questions.
It's so sad that the human connectionthe valued relationship that our patients so desperately want and needis considered to have no value.
Wayne S. Strouse, MD
Penn Yan, NY
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Oct. 24, 2003;80:9.