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Doctors and Victims of Malpractice Clash

January 29, 2003
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

Victims of malpractice and physicians clash over a plan to lower the cap on awards in malpractice lawsuits.

Missy Shelton reports from Jefferson City.

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Linda Booker and her husband came to Jefferson City to tell the story of their 29 year old son who died during what was supposed to be routine surgery.

She explains how she felt November 13, 1998 when her son died.

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The Bookers settled for a confidential amount in their malpractice lawsuit.

They say it's wrong for lawmakers to reduce the cap on pain and suffering awards in malpractice lawsuits.

Linda Booker says penalizing physicians is the only way to prevent negligence.

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On the other side of the issue are the more than 500 doctors who came to the state capitol to support lowering the 350 thousand dollar cap on pain and suffering awards in malpractice lawsuits.

Physicians say costly jury awards are driving up the cost of malpractice insurance in Missouri.

And that is causing some physicians to leave the profession.

Norm Nolten in an internist at Cox Medical Center in Springfield...He's also the immediate past president of the Missouri State Medical Association.

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Legislative opponents of capping pain and suffering awards say they're sympathetic to the plight of doctors.

But Democrat Ken Jacob says it's the insurance companies, not malpractice lawsuits that are responsible for rapidly increasing insurance rates.

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Some physicians say there may need to be reforms in the insurance industry but they say blame also lies with the legal system.

Nolton says even though he wants to lower the caps on awards, he says victims of malpractice do deserve recourse.

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Critics of lowering the cap say there are other ways to deal with rising malpractice insurance rates.

Ken Jacob says he's working on his own plan.

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In the meantime, physicians say rural areas in particular are losing access to doctors.

Deborah Jantsch, an o-b/g-y-n physician in Kansas City says patients are the ones who suffer.

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Proposals to limit jury awards in malpractice cases are poised to go before committees in both the House and Senate.

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