The “Doctors are Fleeing” Argument

The Maryland General Assembly is open for business, which means a lot of lobbying on both sides of the aisle on medical malpractice related issues. Lobbyists for doctors and hospitals have been forever sounding the alarm of doctor shortages, relying primarily on their own studies to support this premise. Maybe there is a small issue of bias in citing yourself for the premise that is in your financial interest.

The American Medical Association’s data suggests that the doctor/patient ratio has increased in Maryland almost every year for more than forty years. In 1963, there were 470 doctors for each patient in Maryland. That number has more than tripled. Today, there are 153 lawyers for every 300 people. The real problem we have in Maryland is that we do not have enough lawyers. (Wait, I’m getting carried away. That is definitely not a problem we have in Maryland.)

But I’m sure that some rural areas of Maryland lack some specialties. MedChi points out that vascular surgeons are in particularly short supply. But this is not just true in Maryland. It is a problem all over the country. Moreover, rural areas are great places to practice to remain insulated from medical malpractice claims. Some rural counties in Maryland have not seen a plaintiff’s verdict in a medical malpractice case in years.
My point in all of this is that the cap on medical malpractice non-economic damages in Maryland is unfair to patients who have been injured by their doctors. There should not be a cap at all. But the first step should be correcting the changes made in the cap after the hoax of a malpractice crisis we had in 2004.