Newsletters

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November 2020 Newsletter

Neurosurgery journal examines medicolegal issues across the practice The November issue of Neurosurgical Focus closely examines the overlap between medical and legal challenges faced by neurosurgeons both in the U.S. and around the world. With 22 peer-reviewed articles and studies on medical liability, physician experiences with lawsuits, the impact of telemedicine, and the global legal climate for neurosurgeons, the edition is one of the most in-depth resources on medicolegal issues available to neurosurgeons and the physician community. The journal’s introduction sets the tone for the current landscape, highlighting that “the majority of [liability] claims fail in their attempt to establish breach, as the standard of care is loosely defined, and most consented risks are not viewed as a deviation from standard care.” It also highlights the risk faced by the neurosurgeon community as a whole, with 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the U.S. facing medical liability litigation each year. This risk is compounded by the fact that the average indemnity payment for a closed neurosurgical civil claim is $439,146 — the highest of all medical specialties. Reviewing the current reforms underway at the state level, the study titled ‘Status of current medicolegal reform in the United States: a neurosurgical…

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October 2020 Newsletter

Alternative approaches to COVID-19 liability As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches new heights into the fall and winter, an opinion piece highlights the medical liability crisis that could lie ahead — and an alternative resolution. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, legal and medical experts William M. Sage, MD, JD; Richard C. Boothman, JD; and Thomas H. Gallagher, MD; analyzed liability insurance trends and non-traditional approaches to reform amid COVID-19. While some states have passed or enacted liability protections related to health care delivery during the health emergency, the opinion piece highlighted that the medical liability insurance market entered a new period of growth in 2018, with rates growing 5.4%. Rates for 2019 rose another 1.2%. The authors advocate for consideration of communication and resolution programs — such as the well-known ‘Michigan model’ — that allowed the health system to forgo excess coverage. This approach “reduced financial uncertainty by promptly resolving most well-founded claims without litigation,” the authors state. Now, the writers are urging policymakers to incorporate this alternative model in COVID-19 liability initiatives. “Applying communication and resolution program principles during the pandemic could both improve quality of care and avert high-dollar claims, which in turn could potentially…

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September 2020 Newsletter

Oregon court errs in liability ruling The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled against the state’s limits on non-economic damages for personal injury cases, with the state’s wrongful death cap remaining, putting an attractive place to practice medicine in limbo. Initially enacted in 1987, the reasonable limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages was found unconstitutional in 1999, but reinstated when the court overruled itself in 2016, before again changing its mind this year. This roller coaster ride created significant uncertainty for patients and physicians alike. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) filed an amicus brief with the court urging the limits be maintained. “While physicians continue to provide quality healthcare to their patients as they have done for centuries, the burdens on the profession continue to increase. No one does their best work while under duress and physicians are no exception. For all patients to be able to receive quality health care and for our medical system to continue functioning, there must be reasonable limits on liability,” the brief stated. Unfortunately, the court ruled in a different direction. In striking down…

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