Q & A with Dr. Morris Kugler

Ann Knef Oct. 18, 2004, 11:25am

Morris Kugler, M.D., general surgeon and outspoken critic of trial lawyers, answered questions about the med-mal crisis facing the Metro-East. A Collinsville resident, Dr. Kugler is founder of Southern Illinois Medical Alliance for the Survival of Healthcare (SMASH), a group that supports pro-healthcare legislators. His wife, Carol, is running for state representative in the 112th District as an independent write-in candidate against incumbent State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville).

Q: Are you political?

A: Am I political? I've always had a big mouth. We're fixing this crisis by getting organized. Damn right I'm political. These guys (plaintiff's attorneys) are going down.

When John Long ran for Appellate Court I called Lloyd (Karmeier) and asked if he was a good man to support. In the same conversation I also said, why don't you run for Supreme Court?

I played on the Okawville Rockets high school basketball team with Lloyd and Dave Luechtefeld and now three of us are active in the same campaign. Lloyd was a very competitive basketball player. As a judge you can't tamper with his ethics. He is above influence and will respond negatively to the suggestion.

Q: Are you confident the pro-tort-reform forces will prevail?

A: It depends on the voting public and how much they like Richard Gere in (the film) Chicago, you know, razzle dazzle, song and dance.

Q: What is SMASH?

A: We have one objective. This is a bipartisan group supportive of legislators and leaders who are pro healthcare. It also will try to defeat those who are not for healthcare. I guess you could call it a special interest group for patients.

Q: Do you fear retribution for taking a strong stand against plaintiffs' attorneys?

A: Some guys fear retribution. I'm not afraid. God will protect me.

Q: How has the medical malpractice crisis affected your surgical practice, Southern Illinois Surgical Consultants?

A: Three of five associates here have left because of the cost of medical liability insurance or unfavorable insurance reimbursement. A fourth left for other reasons. The cost of doing business in the Metro East is out of control. Expenses have gone up and when they go over your income you’re bankrupt. It’s not like you can work harder and see more patients during a day.

Q: What is the solution to the medical malpractice crisis?

A: Caps. If you don't have caps there is no solution. It's working in 28 other states.

The reason for the crisis is frivolous lawsuits. Eighty five percent of cases are settled or dismissed and it costs plenty to defend those. Defense lawyers are going to be hurting here too.

Settling out of court is almost a form of extortion. If you're sued beyond your limits you’re probably going to settle because you don’t want a verdict to go beyond the limits of insurance policy.

Q: Who is to blame for the crisis?

A: Attorneys and a greedy public.

Someone said that if you tell a lie often enough it appears to be true. One of the great lies being told is that these lawsuits are about rooting out bad doctors. Half the doctors (in the area) have been sued or are being sued. So that must mean half the doctors are bad? I don't think so.

Q: Your wife is running as an independent, write-in state representative candidate against incumbent Rep. Jay Hoffman. Why?

A: My wife saw what was happening. Doctors and friends were leaving because they couldn’t get or afford medical liability insurance. She saw that legislators were not doing anything about it.

During a lobby visit to the state capitol in the spring, someone asked Hoffman about tort reform and he said it wasn’t ‘on the table.’

Carol saw the arrogance of lawmakers and said, ‘this is not right.’ She was tired of some of them in Springfield believing it was their divine right to be there and not listen to the populace. She wants the common man to have a chance to be represented, a non-attorney.

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