September 16th, 2009
07:10 PM ET

Malpractice Insurance: Protecting Yourself against your Patients

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Randi Kaye | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Imagine paying to protect yourself from the very patients you are trying to save and protect. That’s the case for doctors nationwide.

Tonight, on 360, you’ll meet an OB-GYN who practices on Long Island, New York. She’s been in business for 18 years, and has delivered 3000 babies! That’s a lot of babies. She’s never been found at fault for anything, yet she pays nearly $170,000 in malpractice insurance fees to protect herself from patients.

Let’s face it, patients and their families expect perfect babies and when that doesn’t happen, they are inclined to sue. Obstetricians are sued more than any other doctor in the country! Dr. Wendy Fried’s office in North Hills, NY was bustling when our crew was there shooting our story and interviewing her.

She was sued back in 1998 for “unnecessary hysterectomy”. Dr. Fried says the woman’s uterus burst during labor and she had to remove her uterus. Both mom and baby survived, and Dr. Fried was even invited to spend Christmas with the family. But out of nowhere six months later she was hit with a lawsuit!

She told me she felt “betrayed” and that this “blew her away” since afterall she had saved the woman’s life. The lawsuit dragged on for more than three years but eventually the jury found Dr. Fried did nothing wrong. Still, to this day, Dr. Fried calls the lawsuit “a knife in her heart.”

Meanwhile, her insurance is getting more expensive, along with that of other OB-GYN’s.
Dr. Fried’s premiums jumped 14 percent two years ago. She’s had to cut back at home on her children’s extracurricular activities and now she only goes to discount stores, just to afford her liability insurance.

How much should doctors pay to protect themselves? Would President Obama’s suggestion of malpractice reform make a difference? And do doctors have a right to practice “defensive medicine” and order more tests than necessary just to cover themselves, even if they know it drives up healthcare costs?

Filed under: 360° Radar • Health Care • Randi Kaye
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Fran

    I've been a RN for 29 years. Worked in ICU and management. Though I sympathize with MDs and malpractice, I do feel accountabilty is lacking. Hospitals nor the AMA will hold doctors accountable. WHo's left holding the bag...nurses and the patient. I've called doctors a night and they've hung up in my face or one told me her baby was asleep so do not call her until morning. Others won't come to see their patients who are in trouble. Others are outright incompetent. Let me tell you.....you better have a competent nurse because if the nurse and the doctor is incompetent, you are in trouble. I've met and wroked with a lot of good doctors. Even some of those were verbally abusive to patients, family and of course nurses. Cut out some of this and you might not get sued.

    September 17, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  2. bran o'connell

    I work as a e.r. nurse for 7 years.I know a brilliant doctor who was sued by a heroin addict for ruining his high.He was brought into the e.r. in full cardiac arrest.The patient was revived .He then sued for ruining his high.He and his lawyer claimed his rights were violated.he was aid 69 thousand dollars because it would cost more to litigate in court.

    September 17, 2009 at 1:52 am |
  3. Dorothy

    Insurance reform is needed immediately.

    September 17, 2009 at 12:01 am |
  4. Dee

    RE alexlyrics
    To make sure we keep it real, where do the "Trial Lawyers" get all the money they contribute to "line the pockets of government with millions of dollars to side with their causes".

    September 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  5. RBrown

    Sounds like the insurance companies need to be reined in.

    September 16, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  6. AYX

    "Let’s face it, patients and their families expect perfect babies and when that doesn’t happen, they are inclined to sue"

    Sorry, but no, that is not always the case. With OB-GYNs especially, they perform procedures completely unnecessary on women. They dope her up with pitocin, suggest and encourage an epidural, and then when the baby's heart rate is fluctuating rush her in for an "emergency" c-section that could have been prevented if they hadn't been in a rush to make it home in time for dinner or for bed. The number of c-sections performed between 3pm-6pm and 9pm-11pm is significantly larger than during any other time of day. But hey, the mother should be thanking the OBGYN for "saving" her from the "trauma" of a vaginal birth, right?

    September 16, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  7. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Ethics is an evolving thought that, over time, should improve.

    But in many moments I particularly didn’t feel confidence in the doctor and even doubted their altruism and it this is not good! The doctor and patient must have a relationship of trust.

    September 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Karon

    One can tell if the rhetoric in health care is racial. Look at the audience. Who is responding to the tea marches? As I looked at a sea of over tens of thousand of faces, all I saw was white Americans. If this were truly a cross section of America, where are the Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, etc? A true cross section would be a blend of 50% white and 50% other. The message is geared toward middle class white America and is therefore racists. Many of the signs were a personal assault on the President and his heritage. The only thing that was missing were the white hoods. My question is, when this mob does not get what they want, will they at that time return to lynching or killing African-American?

    September 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  9. Dave

    It's odd that we have the Good Samaritan law that protects regular people in, but nothing similar for the medical community.

    September 16, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  10. alexlyrics

    Insurance companies are full of crap. Insurance companies make trillions of dollars, and line the pockets of government with millions of dollars to side with their causes.
    A company that is being robbed as much as the insurance companies claim couldn't afford o bribe the government, let alone would never have excesses of surplus moneys to do so.
    The simple fact of the matter is that insurance companies are in business not to pay claims.
    The actual amount of moneys taken in by insurance companies far
    exceeds the actual amounts paid out.
    Lets keep it real, and keep them honest "Anderson."

    September 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  11. SLM

    And people wonder why medical care is so expensive. In case you can't figure it out...........doctor has to increase fees to cover malpractice insurance. Government wants to tack on fees to insurance companies, guess who pays? Not rocket science folks, any fees or expenses are passed on to the consumers. If you don't make any money running a business, why run it?

    September 16, 2009 at 7:14 pm |