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Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Oregon

Medical Lobby's Claim That Doctors Are Fleeing Oregon Is False, Consumer Groups Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- August 13, 2004 -- A new study shows that the number of doctors in Oregon has steadily increased, despite claims by the medical lobby that doctors are fleeing the state because of medical malpractice lawsuits and increased insurance premiums (Public Citizen Press Release, August 5, 2004). In 1999, the Oregon Supreme Court removed a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, which are amounts victims of medical negligence may receive for pain and suffering. Non-economic damages are often awarded for serious problems such as blindness, paralysis, loss of limbs, and loss of fertility. The Oregon Medical Association insisted that a shortage of doctors would result if these non-economic damages were not limited.

According to the study, however, the number of doctors, including those in rural areas, rose by 11.9 percent from 2000-2004. Contrary to medical lobby claims, this rate was about the same as during the period from 1995-1999 when the cap was in effect. The number of specialists in obstetrics, emergency room medicine, and surgery increased even more during 2000-2004 than during the period when damages were limited. The most important factors in determining where doctors practice are wages and the quality of life, not caps on damages, the study concluded. It found that liability laws do not correlate with where doctors locate their practices.

Although insurance rates spiked during the 2000-2004 period, the report said that the increases were a temporary phenomena due to the economy and insurance industry practices. Also, in the case of doctors practicing in rural areas, insurance premiums were actually reduced in 2004 because of a state insurance assistance program.

Written by Public Citizen and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, the study is based on figures from the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. It may be found on the Public Citizen web site. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file. If you need a copy of the software, you may obtain one for free at the Adobe web site. For information about medical malpractice and your legal options, please feel free to contact us at Brayton Purcell. We have over 20 years of experience in the medical malpractice field and work tirelessly to protect the legal rights of our clients.

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