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Comment and Controversy

The walkout that worked

November 2003 · Vol. 15, No. 11

To the editor:

Several US senators, including at least 1 from Dr. Barbieri’s state, are in the pockets of the trial attorney lobby. You might review the history of medical malpractice legislation in California some years ago as a way of getting legislative relief:

The anesthesiologists of San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo counties went on strike on May 1, 1975—no anesthesia was provided except for dire emergencies. After almost a month, Hospital Labor Union #250 told Governor Jerry Brown and Speaker of the Assembly Leo McCarthy that their members were out of work—laid off due to markedly decreased in-patient services. Both officials (lawyers by profession) then sponsored a bill, AB1xx, written by H. Hazzard, Esq., senior attorney for the California Medical Association, which ultimately passed in a special session of the legislature. For over 20 years trial attorneys have tried to get the courts and state legislature to overturn the law—without success.

If I were still in practice, I would not do obstetrics; if I were thinking of training after medical school, I would not choose obstetrics and gynecology. I loved my Ob/Gyn practice, but the trial lawyers have changed our lives in the specialty. My daughter is an attorney.


DR. Barbieri responds:

I appreciate Dr. Bender’s insight into the events that shaped the successful passage of professional liability reform in California. Work stoppages may be necessary to force our legislators to action. Dr. Bender points out that he is glad his daughter is a lawyer and not a physician. Hopefully we can improve the practice environment so that his grandchildren could choose to pursue a rewarding career in medicine.

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