Natchez doctor to testify before committee

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 18, 2002

NATCHEZ &045;&045;Natchez Regional Medical Center has lost 18 percent of its medical staff due to the high cost and low availability of medical malpractice insurance.

In part due to fears of high-award lawsuits, some doctors will not prescribe medications that have not been on the market for at least five years.

&uot;There are about five or six drugs&uot; taken orally for diabetes, said Dr. Thomas Carey. &uot;But only two have been out for five years. If people can’t get (diabetes) control with that, the doctor may say, ‘That’s the most I can do for you.’&uot;

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That will be the gist of Carey’s testimony Friday morning before a joint legislative committee investigating possible tort reforms.

Carey will be the second Natchezian to speak before the Joint Tort Reform Study Committee. Natchez Regional Administrator Houghton testified June 27 about the threat of losing doctors &045;&045; and perhaps a hospital &045;&045; to Louisiana and Regional’s increasing insurance costs.

Carey said Wednesday he knows doctors throughout the state who have had to limit or discontinue their practices due to the lack of insurance. Doctors live in fear of lawsuits from patients who, in some cases, have not even been injured by drugs cited in their complaints, Carey said.

&uot;One doctor has 16 Rezulin (a diabetes drug) cases against him,&uot; Carey said. &uot;Another internist was served with a lawsuit with 140 plaintiffs suing 140 physicians.&uot;

One problem is that, in order to be handled in circuit court, a drug lawsuit must name a physician in addition to the drug manufacturer, Carey said. &uot;If not, it goes to federal court,&uot; a much tougher forum for such cases, he said.

Carey’s testimony is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the State Capitol in Jackson.