Incoming AMA leader offers opinion on medical malpractice reform

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2003

CENTREVILLE &045; As both a licensed attorney and a surgeon, Dr. Donald J. Palmisano is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the medical malpractice liability debate.

But you only need to hear him talk for a minute to know he tips the scales squarely in favor of tort reform.

Speaking Thursday night at the 25th Annual Distinguished Lectureship Series, the president-elect of the American Medical Association said America’s health care providers are in a crisis situation due to the enormous cost of liability insurance.

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&uot;It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or prescription drug benefits if you don’t have any doctors,&uot; said Palmisano, a New Orleans native who graduated from medical school in 1963 at Tulane University.

About 150 guests attended the program, which was sponsored by the Wilk-Amite Medical Society and Field Memorial Community Hospital.

The event was held in conjunction with the hospital’s 75th anniversary celebration.

The medical liability crisis hit home last summer, when three local clinics were forced to close for a week due to a lack of affordable insurance for doctors.

After a long and trying special session, state lawmakers passed a tort reform measure, which became effective Jan. 1.

Palmisano said HR-5, known as the Health Relief Act, is designed to establish a national policy on medical liability cases.

The bill passed the House of Representatives last week and is now in the Senate.

&uot;Since 1989, the AMA has favored a national policy based on the California model, which limits non-economic damages and caps contingency fees for attorneys,&uot; said Palmisano, adding that President Bush is committed to addressing the problem.

Palmisano, who has debated tort reform on such nationally aired talk shows as &uot;Crossfire,&uot; said America is at risk of seeing its young doctors and medical students discouraged from practicing.

&uot;We have to make sure these bright young people are not turned away from medicine. We need reasoned debate &045; America’s health depends on it,&uot; said Palmisano, alluding to the sacrifice our troops made at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

&uot;If Americans can do what we did at Omaha Beach, then why can’t we get 10 more votes in the Senate? Nobody is shooting at us.&uot;