A doctor is legally accountable for malpractice, which causes harm to a patient. That fact has in the past and continues to create the single greatest signal to encourage good practice and to discourage bad practice that has ever existed.
Aside from the inherent justice, implicit in fairly compensating the innocent injured victim, we are all safer because doctors are legally accountable. We would be at greater risk if doctors had the kind of immunity that their insurance companies and medical groups advocate.
There is more than enough medical income to easily fund a liability system that is not burdensome on physicians or the public.
Varying medical specialties are unequal in income and unequal in risk. Instead of being candid about physician income and risk and instead of making the politically unpopular decision to make necessary adjustments, which would solve any problems to the extent that they exist, organized medicine and their insurance companies have perpetuated the myth of a crisis.
The fact is that in urban areas where malpractice premiums are the highest there is an overabundance of available physicians. In some rural areas, where malpractice premiums are the lowest, there frequently is insufficient coverage.
The immunity that doctors seek is based upon a self-created myth of a crisis that doesn't exist. Whatever problems that might fester in some of the high-risk specialties are solvable if state and national medical societies would be honest enough to engage in problem identification and problem-solving, rather than a campaign based on hysteria and false premises.
Steven E. Pegalis, J.D., a Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer, is senior partner in the firm of PEGALIS & ERICKSON, LLC located in Lake Success, New York. He has spent his legal career arguing for the plaintiff in personal injury and medical malpractice cases. He earned his B.A. from Queens College of the City of New York and his J.D. from New York Law School. Mr. Pegalis has been in his own firm since 1972.