Dr. George E. McGee and coauthors review the medical liability crisis in Mississippi during the late 1990s, prompted by multimillion-dollar jury verdicts in malpractice cases. Most companies providing malpractice insurance to doctors stopped offering coverage, while the rest hiked premiums dramatically. Many physicians were forced to leave the state or retire, leading to shortages in such specialties as neurosurgery and obstetrics. "The ratio of mothers to obstetricians in Mississippi fell below that of many underdeveloped countries," the authors write.
Rather than caving in, physicians in Mississippi--led by the state medical society--decided to fight back. Dr. McGee and colleagues sum up their approach to advocacy, which focused on patient education: Develop a consistent and credible message; Avoid hyperbole (the truth speaks volumes); Encourage all physicians to empower and activate their patients with facts; Acknowledge that media expertise is essential; and Communicate, communicate, communicate. The resulting public pressure led the state legislature to pass a comprehensible tort reform package, including a cap on noneconomic damages. The authors conclude, "With this, physicians began returning to Mississippi--to provide welcome care." Dr. Mini B. Swift and coauthors review the financial crisis at Alameda County (Calif.) Medical Center, which provides comprehensive care for indigent patients in Oakland, Berkeley and surro
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