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LETTERS

Raising Cap on Damages Just Brings More Suits

August 22, 2004

Mark and Michelle Geyer's story of losing their daughter is heart-wrenching ("Justice Denied?" Aug. 1).

But raising California's $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages won't bring back their daughter, nor will it enhance deterrence, as state Sen. Tom Torlakson suggests.

Does the senator really think doctors need the threat of lawsuits to provide good care?

Lifting the noneconomic damages cap will result in higher malpractice costs and more defensive medicine in which doctors over-treat patients to avoid allegations of inadequate care. Both will increase costs to consumers and businesses while reducing access to healthcare.

I don't have the answer to our healthcare crisis, but I know more litigation is not it.

Kevin Grant

Stevenson Ranch

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What would happen if physicians chose not to take on cases that were high risk and didn't pay enough?

Imagine being denied medical care because you're not a cost-effective patient. That's exactly what these lawyers are doing.

Dr. Thomas C. Rothe

Tucson

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If it costs $100,000 to bring a malpractice suit because of paying expert witnesses, etc., there is something very wrong with the system.

Jeanne H. Manning

Laguna Woods

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The reason medical malpractice lawsuits have a low rate of success is that most cases in which there is obvious liability are settled out of court. Cases that end up in court are usually those in which there is no apparent professional liability but simply a bad outcome.

Removing the cap on noneconomic damages will not help. What we need is to work together to make our medical care system safer. Punishing individuals and increasing the cost of medical care will not get the job done.

Dr. Gainer Pillsbury

Chief Medical Officer

Long Beach Memorial

Medical Center

Long Beach

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Do higher judgments outside California mean that medical care is better in other states? Do Mississippi and Virginia, with some of the highest malpractice insurance rates, have better healthcare than California?

Dr. Dinesh Ghiya

Whittier

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It is not the damage cap per se, but the fatal flaw in our legal system is in not requiring the losing party to pay the prevailing party's litigation expenses.

By holding the plaintiffs more accountable, we would be likely to see a significant reduction in nuisance suits and perhaps even the premium on malpractice insurance.

The money thus saved could well be sufficient to provide a raise in the damage cap so that those truly injured could be better compensated.

Dr. John T. Chiu

Newport Beach

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If the public wants higher limits on medical malpractice suits, maybe each patient should be required to pay a malpractice surcharge in cash, before seeing the doctor, just as airlines add a fuel surcharge to fares.

The money must come from somewhere.

Daniel Fink

Los Angeles

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