BILL MCCOLLUM SIGNS ON TO MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LIMIT AMENDMENT-Andrew Stelzer

06/15/04

Senate Candidate Bill McCollum became an official supporter of a constitutional amendment circulating that would lower the amount a lawyer could get paid in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The issue of medical liability reform is a major part of McCollum’s campaign, and he repeatedly points out that Mel Martinez, his top competitor for the republican nomination for senate, is against the idea of changing the system which many doctors say keeps them from doing what they are supposed to do—keeping people healthy.

ACT ‘100 percent of neurosurgeons have been sued. 90 percent of radiologists. Have been sued.’

Dr Frank Mastandrea is the president of the Hillsborough County Medical Association. Mastrandrea was one of 4 doctors who gathered at the medical associations headquarters in South Tampa to promote an amendment called “the Medical Liability Claimants Compensation Amendment.�. The goal of the amendment, according to republican senatorial candidate Bill McCollum, is to avoid change Florida’s culture of frequent malpractice lawsuits.

ACT ‘We have litigation run amok…there are 19 states which have doctors leaving…doctors are uninsured…doctors are not coming here..More and more doctors are not taking patients…I had an OB/GYN…and last we have doctors doing unnecessary procedures.

The proposed amendment would ensure that patients would receive 70 percent of the first 250,000, and 90 percent of the lawyers’ fees. Thus in a million dollar reward, a lawyer would receive 150000 dollars, plus legal expenses. Currently a lawyer receives 40 percent, or 400000 dollars. Doctor Bruce Shepard an obstetrician says that patients are suffering because of doctors’ fears of lawsuits.

ACT ‘Like the 42 year old patient that I cant see, like the dozens f diabetic patients that cannot get seen because of risks. And knowing that any misstep may lead to legal action.

The ballot initiative is the result of a campaign by the Florida Medical association to lower medical liability insurance costs by making it less appealing for lawyers to take malpractice cases. The initiative has already gathered enough signatures to get on the Novembers ballot, but it still faces challenges in court. Last week, the State Supreme Court heard arguments from the trial lawyers association, who argued that the wording of the initiative is inaccurate. The court has not yet ruled. Last year, the FMA attempted to persuade legislators to cap the amount of non-economic damages paid to patients and lawyers in medical malpractice cases to $250,000, but Trial lawyers, who have been the main opponents of the idea, convinced legislators supported only a looser, higher cap of between $500,000 to $1.5 million.

The Florida bar association says this will severely limit their ability to take malpractice cases that involve complicated medical issues and are expensive to litigate, but Dr. Mastandrea says that when a doctor does surgery to remove a cancer, they may receive 1,000 dollars, so for a lawyer to have their fees capped at 150,000 is not a hardship.

ACT “Someone in my call group kidney stones…we no longer prescribe medicine.�

Doctor Matthew Berlet, a radiologist at St Joe’s hospital, say he no longer has a passion for his work.

ACT ‘I used to tell my wife it didn’t matter if I won the lottery I would still love to do the work…there’s no joy in it anymore, now we don’t live to work, we work to live, the commitment is diminished, every patient is a potential litigant.

The average cost to throw out a frivolous malpractice lawsuit is 50-60 thousand dollars. Senate candidate Bill McCollum, who has made malpractice lawsuit reform a cornerstone of his campaign, said there has been a bill in congress which could effectively address this problem, and it has passed the house, but there are not enough people in the Senate to pass the bill. WMNF asked McCollum whether creating a universal healthcare system, which would reduce medical costs, might help solve the problem.

ACT-McCollum ‘That’s to give a refundable tax credit to everyone, bush recommended it. But we don’t need socialized medicine; we don’t need to go to one-size fits all which was proposed

Bill McCollum pointed out that Mel Martinez, his main competition for this years senate seat, is against this amendment, Martinez is a lawyer.

ACT-McCollum ‘The trial bar cloaks itself by saying we are trying to discourage bad behavior.�

For more information about the proposed initiative, go to www.citizensforafairshare.com

WMNF also asked McCollum about his campaign, and the issue of felons being prevented from voting in Florida.

ACT “Well I was chairman of the crime committee.

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