MD Malpractice Bill Snubbed
hendersl at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu Sep 21 12:31:07 PDT 2000
Subject: MD Malpractice Bill Snubbed
I thought maybe list members would be interested in this, as it is related
to Lopez/Morrison concerns, the discussion about the Oregon law, and maybe
suggests exam questions for those of us who are feeling desperate already. .
. Although this is dead in the water for now, it also seems to raise some
interesting state/federal issues and commerce clause concerns--unlike
medicines themselves, are malpractice suits interstate comerce?
lynne.henderson at ccmail.nevada.edu
Bill to Open Doctor Malpractice Database Snubbed in Congress
Measure Might Harm -- Not Help -- Consumers, Lawmakers Fear
By Sean Martin
WebMD Washington Correspondent
Reviewed by Dr. Tonja Wynn Hampton
Sept. 20, 2000 (Washington, D.C.) -- A powerful congressional committee
focused Wednesday on legislation that would give the public access to a
now-restricted national data bank on doctor malpractice settlements and
Three outraged citizens led off the House Commerce Committee's hearing,
advocating that the public should have access to the data bank and
that doctor malpractice had tragically affected them or their families.
But worried doctors can likely breath a sigh of relief. The overwhelming
majority of Republicans and Democrats at the hearing expressed serious
reservations about the proposal from Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Va.). Bliley, who
chairs the committee, introduced the bill on Sept. 7, but as yet has no
Under current law, doctors must report malpractice settlements and
along with professional disciplinary actions against them, to the National
Practitioner Data Bank. The data bank is open only to hospitals, insurers,
and government agencies, which pay a fee to access the information.
Bliley's bill would allow the public free access to the data bank via the
Internet and would expand the information available to include felony and
some misdemeanor convictions against physicians.
"Doctors routinely require consumers to give patient histories before
treatment," Bliley said. "I think that patients should have the right to
obtain physician histories before placing their very lives in the hands of a
doctor." He claims that his measure would protect patients.
Bliley, who is retiring from Congress this year after 20 years, presided
the hearing underneath a large framed oil painting of himself in his
trademark bow tie.
But Democrats on the committee pointed out that Congress is supposed to
adjourn by Oct. 6 and has little time to start considering new bills. They
suggested that Bliley was punishing doctors for their support of separate
patient protection measures opposed by Republican leaders. Against the GOP's
wishes but with the support of the American Medical Association (AMA),
legislation passed the House last year to control HMO practices and allow
patients the right to sue health plans.
After Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) suggested that the hearing was retaliation
against the AMA, Bliley interrupted, "I have never had my motives
questioned." He recalled that he had subpoenaed tobacco executives to
before Congress -- even though his congressional district is in Richmond, a
huge cigarette-manufacturing base for Philip Morris.
Other lawmakers said that opening the data bank would only give the public
"raw data" rather than useful information in making an informed decision
about a doctor. According to Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), "[The information]
would be very easy for the general public to misinterpret."
Rep. Greg Ganske, MD, (R-Iowa) noted that some doctors in specialties such
plastic surgery are sued more frequently than other doctors, and those
physicians who see high-risk patients or perform innovative procedures face
more malpractice suits regardless of their competence.
And Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that opening the data bank would
discourage doctors from greater openness about mistakes in the medical
system, keeping the nation's medical error death toll unacceptably high.
According to Tom Coburn, MD, (R-Okla.), "This is a state issue. It has no
business in Washington." Indeed, led by Massachusetts' medical licensing
board, numerous state boards have put out "physician profile" information
While lawmakers were almost unanimously unenthusiastic about Bliley's bill,
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) was a lonely supporter, saying the legislation
should be strengthened to include a toll-free telephone option for consumers
to access the doctor information.
Several citizen groups also testified in favor of the bill today, including
the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumers Union, and the Consumer
Federation of America.
The AMA, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Hospital
Association officially oppose the legislation.
kspope at home.com
Research, resources & reprints at: http://kspope.com
"Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
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