Physician Suggests Refusing Treatment to Malpractice Lawyers

A doctor's proposal asking the American Medical Association (search) to endorse refusing care to attorneys involved in medical malpractice cases drew an angry response from colleagues Sunday at the annual meeting of the nation's largest physicians group.

Many doctors stood up to denounce the resolution in passionate speeches — even after its sponsor, Dr. J. Chris Hawk (search), asked that it be withdrawn.

Hawk, a South Carolina surgeon, said he made the proposal to draw attention to rising medical malpractice costs. The resolution asks that the AMA tell doctors that — except in emergencies — it is not unethical to refuse care to plaintiffs' attorneys and their spouses.

"It expresses the frustration I have with a broken system," said Hawk. He said doctors are leaving his state or retiring early because of insurance premiums — making it harder for patients to receive care.

Neurologist Michael Williams said although he understood Hawk's frustration, the resolution never should have been introduced because it seeks to discriminate against a group of people.

The resolution left the AMA "a really big mess to clean up," Williams said.

For years, the AMA's top legislative lobbying priority has been the medical malpractice system, and some delegates said the resolution could hurt those efforts by giving trial lawyers ammunition.

AMA committees considered more than 250 reports and resolutions Sunday. The committees will make recommendations to the group's delegates, who will begin voting Monday afternoon on policies to adopt.

Last week, the daughter of a Mississippi legislator said she was denied treatment by a plastic surgeon because her father opposes limits in damage suits against doctors.

Dr. Michael Kanosky (search) said he referred Kimberly Banks to other plastic surgeons to have her burn scars removed because he had lobbied on the other side of the issue and saw an ethical conflict.