Monday, March 15, 2004

That, gentle readers, is the sound of Dr. Parker beating the dead horse named DoctorsKnow. The beating was inspired by a recent comment posted on the Medrants site. The commenter, named "arf", asks if the database contained only information on frivolous suits, would it be ethical to use it? But the more salient point IMHO comes next:

A medical business magazine identified some neurosurgeons in Southern Illinois who have closed their practices because of the malpractice climate. The article states that neurosurgeons in Illinois are sued an average of once every nine months.

The hospital offered to make them employees and take over their malpractice costs, but that was not good enough for them, and they chose to leave. Now there are no neurosurgeons in the lower third of Illinois. This will result in this hospital sending patients an hour to Kentucky or two hours to St. Louis.

So, instead of a physician denying medical services to an INDIVIDUAL because of a perceived high litigation risk, these doctors are denying medical services to an entire REGION because of a perceived high litigation risk in the entire area.

Is this "ethical"? I can imagine one's answer, but why is it a problem when a physician declines to put his neck in the noose in one situation but not another?

The reports of departures among Illinois neurosurgeons, Mississippi neurosugeons and Nevada obstetricians don't seem to produce the visceral reaction that the DoctorsKnow site did. The closure of the trauma center in Las Vegas and a walkout of surgeons in West Virginia did evoke some media outrage, but again not to the level of recent events. It seems that the loss of medical services to a region, perhaps permanently, evokes a yawn while more "pro-active" efforts causes the populace to run for their torches and pitchforks. Why? Why is the story of someone who supposedly can't find a physician to treat a non-emergent condition of a family member so compelling to as to warrant an appearance on Good Morning America but the wider problem of physician access can't generate the same amount of attention? To paraphrase Uncle Joe: "One patient's denial of medical care is a tragedy, but the denial of thousands is a statistic"
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