Magazine article State Legislatures

Maine Shields Physicians from Malpractice Charges

Magazine article State Legislatures

Maine Shields Physicians from Malpractice Charges

Article excerpt

Physicians and state legislators worked side by side in Maine last session to pass the first measure in the nation that helps shield doctors from malpractice lawsuits if they follow a set of state-approved guidelines.

Far from grumbling about state control, 93 percent of the state's emergency physicians, 96 percent of the obstetricians, 90 percent of the anesthesiologists and more than 97 percent of eligible radiologists are now enrolled in the program.

The success of the "medical liability demonstration project" will be determined when malpractice lawsuits are filed. To date, no participating doctors have been sued.

Administered by the state board of registration and medicine and the board of osteopathic examination and registration, the Maine project sets explicit treatment guidelines for specific conditions, such as Caesarean delivery of babies or procedures for anesthesia.

Physicians agree to follow risk management procedures developed by state-appointed committees of doctors and insurance, hospital and consumer representatives. By enrolling in the project and practicing the state-approved protocols, doctors are protected in any malpractice or pretrial proceedings.

The medical project sets aside a portion of the savings from malpractice insurers to help rural doctors pay their malpractice premiums.

Although malpractice premiums run as high as $100,000 a year for some specialists, the larger culprit in rising costs is the exorbitant price of "defensive medicine" practiced by doctors in order to avoid lawsuits--estimated to be $27 billion annually nationwide. …

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