BY JUSTINE McGUIRE
Capital News Service
LANSING — There is consensus that a statewide doctor shortage exists in some specialties, but how to fix the problem is contentious. Some physicians suggest that making it more difficult to sue emergency room doctors and hospitals for medical malpractice will encourage recruitment, while plaintiffs’ lawyers say it all comes back to money and that immunity from malpractice suits would cause more problems than it would solve. States with onerous liability laws “have a difficult time attracting physicians in general, especially those physicians who may have higher exposure like the obstetricians, neurosurgeons and emergency doc,” said Kenneth Elmassian, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, or MSMS.
A bill working its way through the House would raise the bar for suing an emergency room doctor. A plaintiff would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the physician was grossly negligent — meaning the doctor showed a conscious disregard for the patient’s welfare. Current law sets the standard of proof to show negligence at preponderance of the evidence, which means that the allegation is more likely to be true than not.