What Can Be Done
I read your article ["One Angry Man," March 2004] feeling like a ghost, looking back to where I once lived and seeing the fading wake of my presence.
Why do people sue doctors so frequently? One reason is unrealistic expectations for what medicine can truly deliver. In all the cases in which I was named (at times I was one of 15 defendants or more), unequivocal negligence was not present but the patient did not have the outcome for which everyone had hoped.
Also, if a patient finds the doctor's explanation of a bad outcome unsatisfying, there seem few alternatives other than a court action.
Finally, I believe the largest component to the malpractice crisis involves financial bias in expert physician witnesses. With fees of $5,000 to $10,000 per court appearance, expert witnesses are tempted to bias their opinions to favor an attorney who may later reimburse them with a lucrative fee.
So what can be done? Two simple changes could help tremendously: expert panels to review the cases of patients dissatisfied with their outcome and neutral expert witnesses hired by the court and paid for jointly by the plaintiff and defense.
Equal cost sharing of paying witnesses would eliminate the bias induced by a physician being paid by one side. The expert panels should have access to all records, but [be] blinded to the names of physicians and patients; perhaps cases should be reviewed in adjacent states to avoid bias. The panel would not replace a patient's right to sue, but a jury would have full access to the panel's findings.
Unfortunately, for me, as a physician in Cleveland, nothing could be done. Two months before my trial, my malpractice carrier informed me that I was being dropped. Fortunately, I had already interviewed in Colorado, and the insurers there reassured me that the cases were more a product of my geographic location than of my abilities.
As I wish Bill's disease could have transpired in a world better able to cure him, I wish I could have told him I'm sorry for his illness in a world with alternatives other than malpractice lawsuits and trials.
Bruce L. Morgenstern, M.D.
Editor's note: Morgenstern, a neurologist, was a defendant in the malpractice
suit described in the article.
A Hand Extended
As a lifelong Clevelander and a subscriber to your magazine, I am somewhat
disappointed in the lack of coverage of the diverse communities that exist and
are growing in Northeast Ohio. In particular, the Hispanic community in Greater
Cleveland is growing by leaps and bounds and is Teeking a greater role in the
critical issues that face our city, county and region.
While your magazine is not typical in the sense that it covers everyday stories,
it does provide a snapshot of the many cultural, political and philanthropically
significant happenings in the community that help people connect and understand
each other. I feel that Cleveland Magazine has done a poor job of highlighting
what the latest census reported was the only group in the city that grew significantly
during the past decade: Hispanics. Could you imagine how worse off the city
would have been without the steady growth of our HispÉnic community? I was also
sad and disappointed to see no Hispanics listed among the "Most Interesting
People" (January 2004). I know, as a reader, that there is a nominating period
and process, but I [elieve that because there are few Hispanic readers of your
magazine, few know the process.
I invite you to come and meet our community, and see for yourself our growing
diversity and energy. We have Hispanics from all segments of Central and South
America as well as the Caribbean. We are now second- and third-generation Clevelanders
who⁄love this city and suffer through the hardships and heartbreaks of our sports
teams, our politics and protect our image as fiercely as any other Clevelander.
We want to help your magazine reach out and grow, but we also need you to shine the spotlight so we get to know all of you as well.
Up in Arms About Venus
Thank goodness someone said something about the Venus statue ["Venus for the
Rest of Us," March 2004]. Laura Taxel hit the nail on the head several times
and, as much as we all want to be positive about all growth in downtown, this
really was a wasted opportunity.
Even if it wasn't insulting to women, why on earth would we squander this
chance to do something new, creative and original? The Venus statue looks like
something an Instant Lotto winner ran out and bought so everyone knows he struck
it rich. I know everyone meant well and supposed that this would be stimulating
or engaging in some way. Unfortunately, I think Laura's reaction is the only
reaction it generated.