Patients Die as Doctors Fear Malpractice

Last month, 53-year-old Barbara Masterson was rushed to a Palm Beach County, Fla., hospital suffering a stroke and in need of life-or-death care.

Jim Masterson said his wife was left untreated for five hours and eventually died while doctors searched for an out-of-county physician who'd operate. Not a single local neurosurgeon would come in, Masterson said.

"If you have a stroke in this part of the country then you're in deep trouble because the doctors won't see you," Masterson said.

Some neurosurgeons (search) aren't disputing his claim, saying they can't afford malpractice insurance and are afraid of being wiped out by lawsuits, so they reduce their risks by refusing emergency patients.

"It makes me feel very bad that I can't take care of a lot of patients... That I have to send them on and I can't take care of them — can't accept that risk," said Dr. Jacques Farkas, a neurosurgeon in Palm Beach County (search).

Last month in Tallahassee, Fla., physicians blamed frivolous lawsuits for sky-high medical insurance and pushed for caps on malpractice attorney fees.

But some trial lawyers say there is no malpractice crisis and that patients are dying because doctors are playing the blame game instead of doing their job.

"I think its criminal," said trial attorney Marvin Kurzban. "I think its dereliction of duty.  I think that's malpractice also."

Click here to watch a report by Fox News Channel's Orlando Salinas.