A South Carolina surgeon has asked the American Medical Association to approve a national policy permitting physicians to deny medical treatment to malpractice attorneys, according to NPR’s Morning Edition.
This is the latest in a series of controversial steps by some physicians to blacklist patients and trial lawyers.
It’s unclear what effect, if any, an AMA ruling would have on most physicians. The average doc would likely see it as a dangerously slippery slope for the profession. Indeed, such a policy would be ethically indefensible and a blunt, misdirected response to high malpractice premiums (many malpractice suits involve legitimate claims courts need to resolve). Also, the vast majority of physicians do not belong to the AMA and it’s unlikely that state medical licensing boards will take kindly to organized denials of care.
Both sides of the malpractice debate have valid points. The docs correct when they say premiums are too high, jury awards are often a lottery, it’s often cheaper to settle than fight a frivolous suit, and many suits are not worth the paper they are written on. However, trial lawyers and patient advocates are correct that medical quality is often sub-standard (over 45% according to recent studies), most cases involve genuine injuries, and law suits are the only vehicles for accountability and transparency in the health care industry.