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Medical Malpractice - Why Is Your New York Doctor Afraid To Treat You?

 

A: I was in the emergency room with my son one evening, and the emergency room attending physician stayed 5 feet away from my son until he heard why we were there. There was an unspoken feeling that this doctor was afraid to touch my son and was hesitant to come near him until he absolutely had to. I should mention that my son did not have any communicable disease and had no festering sores or boils. He fell at camp and we felt he might have broken a bone. That's it.

I definitely got the sense that this doctor wasn't the only one who acted this way toward patients in the emergency room of a large university-based hospital, here in a suburb of New York. 

Once the doctor realized we weren't aliens from another planet, and that we weren't going to sue him for examining my son, his tone and body mannerisms softened slightly, and he returned to 'business-as-usual' in the emergency room. 

Recently, whenever you walked into a doctor's office in New York you'd find articles (I call them propaganda) discussing the high costs of medical malpractice insurance and how it was the terrible trial lawyers who were making their lives miserable. I was fascinated by the material. It didn't bother me that the doctor was openly trying to get their patients to side with them in their fight against malpractice suits, but I was troubled by what was missing from these articles.

There was no attack upon the doctors' insurance companies. Nobody came forward to say they were being gouged unfairly for these ridiculous insurance costs. It was as if the doctors were turning a blind eye to the very people and companies who insured them in the event they were sued by a patient. It made no sense. 

Whenever I brought this topic up to my doctor or a doctor I knew, I'd get a pause before any explanation. Most of the doctors I spoke to never thought about attacking their own insurance company. Rather, they were quite happy to see an organized effort to focus the blame on trial lawyers for their exceptionally high premiums. There is no question that doctors on Long Island pay some of the highest malpractice premiums in the country. The question of why this is so will best be addressed by politicians and people who have studied the exact reasons for this problem. I will however point out that many credible studies have consistently shown that the insurance companies are to blame for their own cries of "We need more money." Repeatedly, insurance companies have made poor investment choices and when they're in a downturn cycle, tend to get their advertising guns out and point the finger at everyone but themselves.

So why are doctors afraid to treat you? They're afraid of being sued. That's it. Some doctors practice without caring if someone sues them. They know they're providing the best medical care they can give. Other doctors look at patients as adversaries, never knowing when that lawsuit is going to hit.