Malpractice insurance problem is no mystery



Malpractice insurance problem is no mystery
EDITOR:
The Vindicator's Jan. 5 editorial about the medical liability insurance crisis highlights a subject of great concern for Ohio and many other states. The problem is complicated, but perhaps not as murky as the editorial suggests.
The legal tort system as it applies to health care is necessary in a democratic society, but it has major flaws. It is dreadfully inefficient -- less than half of the dollars doctors pay for medical liability insurance go to claimants; most of the remainder is paid to lawyers for the two sides. It's capricious -- some plaintiffs with problems that draw the sympathy of jurors are & quot;compensated & quot; lavishly, whether or not their suffering resulted from true negligence. At the same time, malpractice victims who choose not to participate in messy lawsuits get nothing.
It also & quot;sends the wrong message & quot; to doctors. They are damaged by the act of being sued, even if the action is totally without merit, because defending oneself is time consuming, distasteful and -- let's face it -- scary. However, actual damage awards are normally paid by the insurer, so their cost is ultimately borne by the mass of physicians and by those who pay for their services. In other words, for a doctor, it hurts almost as much to be sued if you did right as if you did wrong.
Finally, and perhaps most important, sky-high damage awards provide a strong financial incentive for plaintiffs' lawyers to sue aggressively because they will be richly rewarded even if they win only a minority of cases.
The Vindicator took note of the assertion by plaintiffs lawyers that recent jumps in medical liability insurance rates are caused by the companies & quot;playing the stock market. & quot; It's equally true that the insurers were ably to postpone dramatic rate increases in the 1990s because their investments did well. It's a wash over the long term, and we're left with the hard truth that the dramatic rate boosts reflect mostly increases in jury awards. If the people of Ohio & quot;still don't have a clean picture as to why malpractice insurance for physicians is skyrocketing, & quot; they're just not paying attention.
The Vindicator's call for a special congressional committee to investigate the situation might have merit as a way to define the problem for the public, but it seems likely that any such initiative this year would be buried under widespread posturing by politicians, noise from special pleaders, and by the major crises unfolding in Asia and the Middle East. Besides, an astute journalist could put together more than we would want to know on the subject in a few hours on the Internet sources.
ROBERT GILLETTE, M.D.
Poland
Life experience belies study and news accounts
EDITOR:
Yet again, The Vindicator has attempted to humiliate and discredit the Catholic Church, its institutional structure and our bishops. On the front page of a Sunday edition during one of the holiest seasons of the year for Christians, and in a major editorial three days later, The Vindicator has made sure that any uninformed person should believe that by its very existence the Catholic Church and religious communities are abusive, dysfunctional and harmful to the emotional and physical health of its members.
I am not a research psychologist, nor journalist. I am a woman religious who has lived a vowed life for 37 years. I was never asked to complete a survey or participate in a study, but I give my observations and experiences as a member of a major religious community during some of the most challenging times in modern history. The media's attempt to link any human tragedy to the structure of authority in the Catholic Church is like blaming the skeletal system that provides support to the human body for causing every disease or illness. The structure of authority in the Church -- as in society -- is intended by its guidance and laws to create the environment for full personal growth. No one doubts the culpability and personal responsibility of individuals within the Church, or society for that matter. But the argument that the structure of the Church systemically causes the tragedy of abuse and victimization ignores the politically incorrect realities we call personal sin, evil, infidelity, and emotional immaturity.
As a woman religious, I freely vowed chastity, poverty, and obedience, and committed myself to the service of the Church through the works of charity entrusted to my religious congregation. Over nearly four decades, I have been supported and encouraged in my vocation by my religious superiors who cared about the personal and spiritual well-being of each sister. Never once would I call their leadership or concern a "toxic environment" or term their confidentiality a cover-up. I live with consecrated women who are among the healthiest people you will ever meet, generous and committed women whose lives are devoted to the children and people they serve -- and always at great personal sacrifice. Never once in these many years have I ever witnessed the outrageous behavior that The Vindicator and other media or "studies" would portray as common place in the Church or in convents.
Are individuals in the Church--bishops, priests, consecrated religious and laity--perfect? No, but they are called to be holy and with God‚s grace strive to lead faithful lives.
The most important statement reported in The Vindicator's account of the St. Louis study was never even mentioned in the editorial, although it should have been the most important message: "... but the abuse results of the nun survey seem in line with many other surveys of women. National surveys indicate that somewhere between 20 percent and 27 percent of all women have been sexually abused as children." Where is the outrage of The Vindicator about the abuse and victimization of all women and children, not only a small percentage of nuns?
Sister MARY BRENDON ZAJAC, SND
Youngstown
X The writer is executive director of Pastoral and Educational Services, Diocese of Youngstown.
Teenagers helping others in summer is a great idea
EDITOR:
I am responding to Laure Cioffi's article called "Lawrence teens to fix homes" in the Dec. 29 Vindicator. In the article, Cioffi explains how hundreds of teenagers are ready to repair needy people's homes during the summer.
I agree with teens going to help the needy with home repairs. I believe that that is a good opportunity for some teens to stay out of trouble. I also believe that this is a great opportunity for Christian teens to grow up in a better environment.
In the article it says that "Reach" a program for teens is a Christian camp for junior and high school students to help them with their self-esteem and spiritual growth. The teens will be helping low-income communities with home repairs. The Christian camp is going to be held June 22 through 28. Already representatives have chosen 20 homes to be worked on. I think this is a great idea that will probably change some people's outlook on teens. This camp will cost the teens $340 to attend to buy the materials needed for this job.
I think this is a great opportunity for all teens who attend.
JOSEPH A. QUIMBY
Lake Milton

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