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Press Release

    Doctors Look to Patients in Push to Change Malpractice Suit Laws

    06/08/2004

    Excerpt from the Associated Press

    “Some Rhode Island doctors have plans to turn the tables, looking to their patients for help.

    The doctors, trying to raise support for their effort to change the rules governing medical-malpractice suits, are hoping to enlist those they treat.

    They're planning to talk to patients during regular visits, hand out stickers supporting "medical liability reform" and cards with the phone numbers of legislative leaders. They also planned to urge patients to lobby for two identical bills in the General Assembly.

    ‘It's an opportunity, as they're one-on-one with people, to answer questions and heighten awareness of the issue,’ Dr. Jerald Fingerut, medical director of Westerly Hospital, told The Providence Journal. Fingerut said many physicians associated with his hospital have agreed to participate in the effort, which was set to begin Tuesday.

    Committees in the House and Senate have held hearings on the bills, but neither has been scheduled for a vote, and doctors fear that the legislation may die, as it has in past years.

    The bills would require that lawsuits against doctors be filed within a year of the discovery of an injury, that plaintiffs disclose expert testimony within a year of filing a lawsuit, that interest rates on judgments be much less than the current 12 percent, and that plaintiffs' attorneys have an expert certify that the suit has merit.

    Doctors say increases in medical malpractice insurance are driving physicians out of the state and making it difficult to recruit new ones. Although malpractice rates also are soaring in other states, doctors said in Rhode Island they're less able to absorb the increases because reimbursements are low.”