Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Crocodile tears

Malpractice debate draws more doctors
Angel Rios estimates he works 90 to 105 hours a week as an obstetrician-gynecologist, leaving the El Paso, Texas, doctor little time or inclination for politics. Medical malpractice lawsuits changed his mind.

“I saw doctors out there 25 years and working and they had to declare bankruptcy,” says Rios, 41. “Doctors are realizing that they need to get involved.”

Rios opened his checkbook to Republicans promising to limit lawsuits. So did many colleagues: In the 2004 elections, doctors almost doubled their political contributions compared with four years earlier. And, in another milestone, they outspent trial lawyers, who are opposed to curbs on litigation, by 40 percent, a reversal of the 2000 campaign.

The doctors’ demonstration of political muscle assures that their views will loom large as Congress considers medical- malpractice legislation.

The president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Todd Smith, said the physicians’ new financial clout is being augmented by contributions from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and other businesses that want to rein in lawsuits.

“We are being enormously outspent on the other side and I think America better watch out,” said Smith, a partner with the Chicago-based law firm of Power, Rogers, and Smith. “The first time a citizen needs access to the court and they find out that some of these laws have passed, they’re going to have an eye-opener, and it’s going to be too late.”

"We're being outspent." Oh my, hand me a hankie, I just can't stop crying for him. When the ATLA requires every member to give it up and the docs donations are voluntary. And when this is the first time in history this has happened. It was OK when the ATLA outspent everyone else.