Posted On: March 3, 2009 by Ronald V. Miller, Jr.

Medical Malpractice and the Baltimore Sun: My Last Thought

I've written twice in the last week on The Baltimore Sun's position on the medical malpractice cap and the efforts in the Maryland legislature to return the malpractice cap in Maryland back to that of 2005, before MedChi - in my view - snookered the Maryland General Assembly by creating a crisis when clearly one did not exist.

The Baltimore Sun - a paper I love and continue to think is underrated - continues to interject its opinion on this issue throughout its paper. My first complaint is that they are focusing their attention on Maryland medical malpractice lawyers instead of weighing the pros and the cons of the issue.

Yesterday, The Sun continued its assault with an article on a legitimate concern about the availability of doctors in rural areas, a serious problem that rural areas have been dealing with pretty much since the advent of doctors. The story includes this passage:

Rural doctors are saddled with more than school debt. They must also deal with the same high medical malpractice insurance rates and the lower-than-average reimbursements for services that all doctors in Maryland face.

Really? The same medical malpractice premiums? Are you sure?

Southern Maryland News has a similar article about the shortage of rural doctors, profiling the ostensibly tragic story of one rural doctor forced by the “skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance” to abandon her own practice and join a group practice. The reason? Her malpractice premium “recently jumped from $11,000 to $16,000 a year.” For anyone who has spent 6 minutes with a doctor and gotten a $188 bill, it is unfathomable that this additional $13.70 a day was a deal killer. But that is the nature of the medical malpractice cap argument: malpractice lawyers are the root of everything that ails the medical community. (Unless we are talking insurance reimbursements, in which case short changing insurance companies are the root of all evil.)

What I find so maddening about all of this is that I’ve been reading The Sun since before I can remember. I remember clearly to this day reading about Brooks Robinson – my hero – hitting a pinch hit three run home run against the Indians to win the game 5-4 in 1977 as his career was winding down. The Sun described Brooks as “grinning ear-to-ear” which I found perplexing because I thought that a grin was the same thing as a grimace. My father had to explain to me that grinning means smiling.

So The Sun and I go back a bit. I’ve always assumed the paper chose its words with circumspection. I figured every last word was analyzed. I’m sure I’ve spouted off many times with facts I’d learned reading the Baltimore Sun. But most things I read about in the paper are things about which I have no inside knowledge. So when I read a fact similar to the implication that rural doctors pay the same malpractice premiums as doctors in more populated areas, I just accept it as true if I do not know better. Most of us do. And it is scary when we are given obvious evidence that facts can be treated so casually by the paper that dominates the Baltimore market.

Okay, I'm done writing about this topic. If The Sun, as expected, compares Maryland medical malpractice lawyers to Pol Pot tomorrow, it is going to have to pass without comment from me.