SMASH doctors endorse McGlynn

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 17, 2006, 8:01am

Appellate Court Judge Stephen McGlynn picked up the endorsement of the Statewide Medical Alliance for the Survival of Healthcare (SMASH) for a full term on the Fifth District Appellate Court today.

"The election of Justice Karmeier and the passage of medical malpractice reform by the state legislature have helped stabilize the exodus of doctors from Illinois," said Dan Hoffman, M.D. of Mt. Vernon.

Hoffman was one of more than a dozen doctors and health care professionals who attended a press conference outside the office of Mohammed Megahy, M.D. in Maryville.

"It is critical that we continue reforming our courts by electing fair judges like Steve McGlynn so we can move forward and not backward," said Hoffman.

McGlynn was recommended by Justice Lloyd Karmeier and appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Gordon Maag, who in November 2004, became the first appellate judge not to be retained. He also lost the Illinois Supreme Court race.

McGlynn is facing Saline County Circuit Judge Bruce Stewart in the Nov. 7 general election.

SMASH, a political action committee, formed in 2000 to promote the interests of physicians and their patients. The group, which was founded by Metro-East surgeon Morris Kugler, M.D., began as a grass roots effort by southern Illinois physicians to counter medical malpractice tort abuse.

The group, which has since gained membership statewide, was instrumental in Karmeier's election.

"Steve McGlynn is the most committed to fairness and balance in our courts," said Phil Johnson, M.D., a surgeon from Litchfield.

"He will continue the movement to reform our courts that began with the election of Lloyd Karmeier to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004."

Johnson said that the Metro-East had suffered an "enormous loss" and is "struggling to recover" from a physician exodus. Recruiting high-risk specialists in southern Illinois is still a challenge because of the high costs of doing business, he said.

"Voters responded by electing Justice Karmeier, and also by not retaining a sitting judge on the appellate court," he said.

"Now is not the time to allow a handful of law firms which have benefited most from what has been described as jackpot justice to select their candidate to fill this spot on the appellate court," said Johnson.

A local reporter angered the crowd of doctors when she asked if they had inflated the number of doctors who've left, often estimated at 160, to make a point.

"How many doctors have really left?" she asked. "Every time I see a story the number of doctors who left the area is different, give me a list of everyone who left. The elephant in the room is medical malpractice. I can never find a doctor who left."

"The elephant in the room is the legal system," roared retired physician Bob Hamilton, M.D.

"You cannot find them because they left," said SMASH founder Kugler.

Lynne Nowak of Belleville, chairman of Doctors for McGlynn, and the architect of the "Keep Doctors in Illinois" wristbands, said McGlynn has been a long-time advocate for access to quality healthcare.

"Judge McGlynn understands our concerns and why good physicians are frustrated with the legal system," Nowak said. "Before his appointment to the bench, he was our greatest champion within the legal community for the common sense reforms we needed."

Michael Delaney, M.D. of Carbondale, who has practiced medicine for 26 years, echoed Nowak's sentiments.

"As an attorney in the Metro-East, Steve McGlynn spoke out against abuses in the legal system," Delaney said. "He stood up to the powerful trial bar interests and supported efforts to bring attention to the medical malpractice crisis."

McGlynn said it was a "great honor" to receive the endorsement of SMASH.

"Doctors really understand what is at stake in this election," said McGlynn.

He said that judges have the power to dismiss baseless suits, dismiss doctors that shouldn't be defendants in suits and the power to reduce verdicts that are "grossly excessive."

"Everyone is entitled to justice, even doctors," he said.

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