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Surgeons: Use Us Because We're Easy To Sue?

Last week, noted blogger, Doctor Rich had a post examining the American College of Surgeons’ advice regarding medical tourism, where a patient travels outside the United States to obtain medical care. No shocker, but American surgeons aren’t fans of the practice, and they did their best to give reasons why patients should be careful with medical tourism.

For those of us that are plaintiffs’ lawyers, the biggest shocker had to be the physicians’ sudden concern that patients traveling out of the country might have difficulties bringing medical malpractice suits. Dr. Rich writes:

Second, and most astoundingly, Dr. Rich notes – not so much with interest, but more with awe – that the surgeons are beseeching their patients to consider just how difficult it might be to launch a malpractice suit against foreign doctors. (Dr. Rich himself does not know how difficult this would be. Given that we are being so strongly urged these days to merge the American legal system with international law, it might not be much of a problem for long.) Indeed, the potential difficulty in suing foreign doctors appears to be the chief differentiator, and the primary argument in favor of good-old-American-surgery. The surgeons, in essence, are saying, “Let us do your surgery, because we’re easier to sue if we screw up.”

This, from the very body of American physicians who are most at risk for malpractice suits, and who traditionally have been most vociferous in favor of malpractice reform.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument; in fact, I have a previous post on the subject (A Doctor Touting The Benefits of Texas’s Medical Malpractice System?). And I said it then, and I’ll say it again: I find this appalling. In 2003, when the medical and insurance lobbies simply obliterated the Texas medical malpractice system, the doctors were all over themselves to do anything they could to take away patients’ rights to sue. In 2003, and even earlier, the Texas Trial Lawyers’ Association tried to sit down with the medical associations to work out mutually beneficial legislation that might help meet the needs of the medical lobby while also protecting Texas consumers, and the medical lobby wanted none of it. They simply wanted to take away as many rights as possible. To sit there now and tout the medical malpractice system as a reason to avoid medical tourism is hypocrisy at its best.

I don’t know what the future holds for medical tourism, but I’ll continue to watch and see if the medical lobby continues this disingenuous concern for patients.

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