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Governor Rick Perry routinely overstates the success of tort reform in Texas. Contrary to what he touts, there has been a very small increase in practicing doctors in the state and the bulk of the influx was in larger cities where health care was already abundant.

Texas has 254 counties; only 106 have obstetrician/gynecologist — just six more than in 2003. For example, Presidio County’s one and only practicing physician, one doctor for 8,000 residents. Because the physician does not deliver babies or treat emergencies, many women move to another part of the state while pregnant. In Pecos, about four-hours north of Presidio, a California woman became ill while traveling through the area. By the time they reached the closest hospital nearly 200 miles away, the woman died in the car. These are the kind of underserved regions that Perry said would benefit from tort reform. Bottom line is that tort reform did not increase rural health care in Texas.

Now here’s the other twist. It is no secret among doctors that if you’ve been disciplined in other states for repeated accusations of negligence, Texas is the place to move your practice. Why? The Texas Medical Board (TMB) is not required to disclose cases of medical malpractice when a doctor moves from another state. In fact, they are not required to even look into cases. You read that correctly, the Texas Medical Board does not check to see if a doctor moving from another state has a track record of seriously injuring or killing patients. The responsibility to disclose malpractice cases rests solely on the doctor. If the doctor does not report his/her own medical negligence, patients are left in the dark.

That was the case with Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz (Dr. K), a brain surgeon who couldn’t work in Minnesota so he went to Texas where his negligence would be protected by the Texas tort reform. Thanks to Governor Perry, if you are injured, or worse, it is nearly impossible to seek justice because the state tort reform severely reduces a doctor’s accountability for negligence. Feel safe now?

Sadly, Texas has become a safe haven for dangerous doctors. Governor Perry and his supporters have made it clear that protecting health care providers is more important than protecting patients; that “making more money" has replaced "do no harm” for these corporations. Doctors are allowed to erase previous harm done in another state then avoid accountability for harm caused in the future. Bad doctors are attracted to places that allow them to injure people and not be held accountable. Telling doctors to come to Texas and no matter what they do to their patients they will keep their license and continue to make obscene profits. Just remember that these apply to every case, even the most serious malpractice cases.

If Rick Perry and his supporters were hoping tort reform would attract more doctors to the state, they should have thought about the quality (rather than quantity) of the doctors they would be attracting. If you were a doctor with a history of committing malpractice, wouldn’t you move to Texas?

Only you, the people, can stop this nonsense. Don’t be another victim of a bad doctor’s negligence; don’t be a victim of senseless, anti-citizen, tort reform, politics and corporate greed.

Contact your local, state and federal elected representatives; find out where they stand on these important issues. If they stand with the corporations and the tort reformers, tell them they can’t have your vote. Anytime a politician says “tort reform”, they are really saying “deregulation” of the medical profession. Is that what you want? Tell them to speak up for the American taxpayer not their corporate cronies. If they refuse, vote for the “other guy”. You have rights; make them be heard.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

59 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Cilla Mitchell

    Thank you for bringing a subject to a public format the state of Texas has been sweeping under the rug. Thank you!

    About half the members of the TMB were appointed by Governor Rick Perry. The president of the board, Dr. Irve Zeitler who also was appointed by Governor Rick Perry, has allowed countless of reckless negligent doctors to practice freely without accountability under his watch. A geologist was appointed by Governor Rick Perry. A geologist! An animal control specialist would have made just as much sense.

    Leigh Hopper, spokes woman for the TMB has written in her reply to family members demanding accountability as to why their loved ones died, "'we judge a doctor's guilt by their demeanor." If this is not an arrogant, stupid, unacceptable answer, I do not know what is. The sad fact is, she can get away with it.

    Why? The Tort Reform Act Governor Rick Perry signed was the the instrument used to strangle the 7th Amendment in a quiet, unceremonious death.

    The only recourse to getting justice for our loved ones is to take the law into our own hands. Is this what we have evolved to?

  2. Gravatar for jc

    This is the most biased post on the web, obviously written by a plaintiff's attorney! Lets review some nationwide facts. 80% of malpractice cases that go to trial are won by the defendant doctor. That means that plaintiff attorneys have an 80% failure rate when they try cases. No other industry in America has such a dismal failure rate. Any Joe Lawyer in the USA can sue a doc for malpractice. These are highly technical lawsuits which require expertise to suscessfully prosecute. Yet the ABA requires no specialized training, it is learn on the job. Imagine if a doc wanted to do complex brain surgery by learning on the job! I totally support Gov Perry in getting these greedy incompetent lawyers out of Texas. More power to him!! He should be elected President!!

  3. Gravatar for Cilla Mitchell

    Mr. Bello:

    I have just read jc's comment. I eagerly anticipate and await your response. I chose not to respond to this because I still would like to remain a welcome visitor on your blog.

  4. Gravatar for Anna Mae Rooks

    JC must be another knuckle-dragging Republican who is willing to let incompetent doctors get away with murder. The State of Texas has a duty and an obligation to ensure that health care is safe, that doctors are morally fit to practice medicine, have sound judgement, and are capable of providing the standard of care required in each case.

    The state has failed miserably! The main duty of the Texas Medical Board is to protect doctors - no matter how reckless, grossly negligent, or incompetent they are. Based on my personal experience with the TMB, falsified medical records are acceptable, they find nothing wrong when a doctor falsified medical records, practicing outside one's area of expertise, refusal to see an ill heart patient, failure to order blood chemistries, failure to diagnose, performing a procedure which the doctor KNEW was unnecessary in order to fatten his pocketbook. The patient was my son and he died as a direct result of the recklessness, gross negligence and incompetence of two doctors. The medical board saw NOTHING wrong, and dismissed the case due to "lack of evidence."

    Rick Perry and his cohorts have blood on their hands. the Texas Medical Board is a joke. They sacrifice public health and safety and enrich doctors, insurance companies and special interests who profit greatly at the expense of patient safety.

  5. Celia: You are and always will be a welcome visitor. As to JC, I dont have to say much, because my new friend, Anna Mae, said much of what needed to be said. I will say this: Whether JC's unsupported statistics are true or not, he and many others make the debate about LAWYERS. It is NOT about lawyers. It is about VICTIMS and dangerous doctors. Contrary to JC's rhetoric, the LEGAL profession oversees and punishes "bad"lawyers. Tort reform and, apparently, the TMB, make it possible, even lucrative, to be a "bad" doctor, especially in Texas. I get it JC, you hate lawyers; but as someone who is only one botched procedure away from being a victim, as a citizen who visits doctors, I would think that you would support a system that holds bad doctors fully responsible for their bad acts and appropriately compensates victims so the taxpayers aren't left holding the bill. Negligent lawyers do not cause death; a negligent doctor may. Your 80% figure makes for a good blog response, but ignores cases resolved successfully in many other ways. The vast majority of malpractice cases are resolved successfully. Since lawyers handle theses cases with their own funds and on a contingency fee basis, there is little incentive for them to pursue poor cases. Yes, they lose some; when they lose, they receive no compensation, and they lose the money they spent to pursue the case. Sometimes, in rare circumstances, they are subject to financial penalties. Contrast that with a doctor who is compensated by the healthcare system regardless of the level of competency and procedure success. Unless there are mechanisms in place to punish the incompetent, there is no economic reason for them to stop. The way to reform the medical-legal system is to find ways to reduce the incidents and seriousness of malpractice. Tort reform does not do that; it has the opposite effect of reducing compensation to victims and penalties to doctors, making it easy and painless for bad doctors to continue to see and (mis)treat patients, especially in Texas.

  6. Gravatar for jc

    Response to Ms Rooks - -Ms Rooks must be a wide eyed liberal activist willing to let incompetent lawyers drag down the Texas economy and chase out competent doctors. The duty of the America Bar Association and the Texas Supreme Court is to assure that only competent attorneys are allowed to file lawsuits. In this, these organizations have failed miserably. A plaintiff's attorney filing a malpractice case has a better chance of winning a coin flipping contrest than winning a trial verdict for his client. When he does win a claim, (after years of litigation!)the plaintiff's attorney gouges the patient for up to 60% of the award. Some patients receive no award at all as the plaintiff's attorney hordes all the award! Based on my personal experience, I have seen plaintiff attorneys pursue a trivial case relentlessly until the Judge thru the case out after years of litigation when it was obvious from the outset that there was no legitimate claim. Yet neither the ABA nor the presiding judges ever see anything wrong!

    The ABA and the US courts have blood on their hands for letting this legal travisty continue, which causes increased medical costs for all and drives out legitimate doctors and businesses depriving citizens of the USA from the medical care and jobs that they need.

  7. Gravatar for jc

    Response to Mark Bello: Competent malpractice attorneys know that 80% of trial verdicts are for the defense and that 70% of docs sued for malpractice result in no malpractice payment. This is not about doctors or lawyers, it is about victims who are being poorly served by the current legal system. Bello is lying when he says the legal profession punishes bad lawyers. It is almost unheard of for a lawyer to be punished for filing a frivolous lawsuit by a judge or the ABA.

    Docs are largely prohibited from countersuing lawyers for filing frivolous litigation. I would think Bello would support a system whereby docs could countersue lawyers for filing frivolous litigation which would improve the dismal plaintiff attorney failure rate of 80% Remember any Joe Lawyer can sue a doc without any training in malpractice litigation whatsoever. Contrast that to the medical profession where you have to get privileges at a hospital in order to do surgery and you have to show evidence of training. Hospitals rigorously check on doctors thru PEER review systems and if you are outside the statistical norms, consequences (lost privileges) result. The bottom line is if docs make too many mistakes they lose their hospital privileges and reputations and their practice. If we really want to help patients who are victims, we need to move to medical courts and get it out of the hand of these greedy lawyers and incompetent judges who take years to reach a verdict. With medical courts a quick decision could be made in 3-6 months not 3-6 years and decisions could be made on facts not legal gamesmanship.

  8. JC: Your statistics are patently false and calling me a lier won't make them true. I put my name to what I say; I don't hide behind initials, anonymously. There is absolutely no incentive for a lawyer to file a "frivolous" lawsuit when he/she works on a contingency. And,if "frivolous lawsuits" were what tort reform was about, why does tort reform always "cap" serious cases? The vast majority of malpractice cases are resolved in favor of the victims; that is a fact that is not in question. Produce your statistical analysis that says otherwise. The 3-6 years you are spouting about result from the pursuit of frivolous DEFENSES pursued by doctors. Again, there is no incentive for a lawyer, working on a contingency fee basis, to delay legal proceedings; that is strictly a defense tactic. And JC, there is a place where doctors can go when they are found to be "incompetant" by peer review; its a wonderful safe haven for all doctors who lose hospital privileges in their current community. It's a place where all incompetant doctors can go and live and commit medical mistakes in peace, with little oversight and almost no consequence. It's called "Texas".

  9. Gravatar for Cilla Mitchell

    JC:

    Your argument solidifies my last statement that in Texas the only way to get justice will be to take the law in our hands. FYI, do not use the word "obviously" so cavalierly, because obviously you are sadly mistaken.

  10. Gravatar for jc

    Bello: If "liar" is an accurate description of you that that is what you have to live with. I did a little quick research on Google and found Burke & Eisner Law Blog - -Plaintiff attorneys who state, "The success rate of medical malpractice suits is only nearly a quarter of the total number filed." This is a plaintiff's lawyer blog which confirms my personal experience that 80% of cases which go to trial are won by the defendant doc and 70% of docs named in malpractice cases are dropped with no payment. So you lawyers are filing way too many malpractice lawsuits and winning way too few cases. As a doc, if I had a 20% success rate, I would not be in practice very long!

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