Health care in the balance

The Madison County Record Feb. 1, 2009, 6:26am

To the editor:

The future availability of health care in Illinois, especially in Madison and St. Clair counties, hangs in the balance of the legal system of Illinois. The Illinois State Supreme Court is currently reviewing Lebron vs. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and will rule on the constitutionality of the Medical Malpractice Reform Act of 2005.

The decision is in the hands of the Court and will not be affected by letters, telephone calls, emails or letters to the editor.

If the law is overturned, we will revert to the state of affairs that existed in 2004, when our two counties had lost approximately 170 physicians through early retirement and relocation. Not only were these physicians lost to our area, but, for the most part, they were not replaced.

Obstetrical services were severely curtailed, and neurosurgical services became almost unavailable. We lost many primary care physicians and specialists, as well. A few physicians have moved to this area, but most are either hospital employees, and therefore often impermanent, or are physicians who grew up here.

Public awareness of the prior abuse of litigation and some laudable judicial reforms have been important changes.

However, if the Court overturns the law, there will again be no limits on non-economic awards, such as pain and suffering. The result will be: an increase in the number of cases filed; out-of-court settlement of cases in which there was no neglect; increased risk for malpractice insurance companies; rapidly escalating malpractice premiums; and a dramatic decrease in the health care services available to people in Illinois, with attendant adverse effects on the overall economy.

We cannot affect the Supreme Court's ruling, but the public needs to know what the effect of this ruling will be. We must hope that the scales of justice will balance in favor of the general welfare of the people of the state of Illinois, and not return us to the chaos of 2004.

Noor Ahemd MD, President
Madison County Medical Society

Robert Hamilton MD, ISMS Trustee,
6th District

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