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Medical Malpractice and Insurance

October 06, 1985

Allan Parachini's article gives a distorted view of the true picture of the practice of medicine. It seems designed to inflame people to sue doctors and cause even more nuisance claims. While that result may not have been Parachini's goal, it is clearly the goal of Ralph Nader, who has spent decades trying to undercut the practice of medicine.

The article appears to cover pros and cons of the Nader "study" about physician discipline, but displays gross ignorance of what is really going on. Percentages of doctors disciplined means nothing unless the criteria are established and are universal. . . . Also, insurance companies do rate doctors and surcharge them if they are not up to standard and cancel them if they remain substandard. . . .

Also, if there is any doubt that a lawyer problem exists, look at the problem doctors have finding affordable professional liability insurance. In this company, about 73% of all claims are dismissed without payment of indemnity. What that means is that the great majority of claims are without merit. They are often mere nuisance suits designed to put dollars into a lawyer's pocket if the insurance company will pay off rather than fight a long court case.

Further, about 80% of those cases which go to trial are won by the defense, so obviously most of those cases never should have been pressed by the lawyers.

The fact that a doctor has had several claims does not mean he is a bad doctor. It may mean that he is one of the best in his field and has been referred the toughest cases by other physicians.

If there is any question that lawyers benefit from this activity, one has only to look at the appeals made by lawyers to fight legislation that would reduce the number of lawsuits.

Despite the failings in the system caused by lawyers, I suggest that the patient's best protection is to check the best hospital in his community and see if the doctor he wants to visit is on the staff of that hospital.

ALLAN K. BRINEY MD, Chairman

Board of Governors

Physicians Insurance Management Inc.

Southern California Physicians Insurance Exchange

Before publication of the story reporting on the Nader study, The Times made several inquiries of the Physicians Insurance Assn. of America, a group representing doctor-owned malpractice insurers, including Dr. Allan K. Briney's firm. Despite repeated requests, the PIAA declined to offer any estimates of its own of the extent of negligence among doctors and declined an offer of electronic transmission of a copy of the Nader report so that the PIAA could respond to it.

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