August 2003 Bulletin

Implementing a medical liability reform campaign

AAOS establishes coalition, plans public education message

By Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

This issue of the Bulletin is devoted to coverage of AAOS activities for tort reform at the state and federal level. Since my last message to you in the June Bulletin, we have moved closer to implementing a national strategy for medical liability reform. I want to take this opportunity to report to you on recent developments.

Specialty coalition

The focus of our effort is to educate the public on the need for a federal approach to changing our nation’s tort system. Our goals are to work with other specialty physician groups that share our interest and to pool our resources to strengthen this campaign. High-risk and other medical specialties have now met with each other on three occasions–twice in Washington, D.C. and once in Chicago–to develop a single message and unified public education campaign. In addition to discussing the objectives of this coalition, we also have heard presentations from two public relations firms on developing our public message. James H. Herndon, MD, AAOS president; William W. Tipton, Jr., MD, AAOS director of medical affairs, other AAOS staff and I have attended these organizational meetings.

Presently, there is a steering committee of representatives from the four medical societies who have made an initial $1 million commitment to this effort. In addition to AAOS, these physician groups include the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the American College of Emergency Physicians. Other medical societies that plan to participate at some other financial level include: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Surgeons and the North American Spine Society.

In a few weeks, the steering committee will meet in the AAOS Rosemont, Ill. office to review proposals from several additional public relations firms. They will then make a final selection of the agency to represent our campaign. Our steering committee is hopeful that other specialty medical societies will join with us, and that we will be able to launch a $5 to $10 million public education initiative covering a period from fall 2003 until the end of 2004.

Federal and state efforts

The various components of our campaign may include television and radio communications, (continued on p. 24) patient information kits, and a variety of other activities targeted in some key states where U.S. senators have not supported medical liability reform.

Supplementing this national effort, the AAOS also has decided to aid state-level liability reform efforts by making grants to state orthopaedic societies. Thus far, grants have been approved for state societies in Texas and Florida. In a few weeks, I hope to report on the specific elements of this campaign, as approved by the steering committee. (See related article.)

Additional support needed

In addition to the $1 million that the AAOS Board of Directors has committed to this initiative, our goal by the end of 2003 is to raise an extra $3 million within the orthopaedic community. As of July 31, 961 AAOS fellows have contributed $692,315 to the Medical Liability Reform Campaign, but we need even greater participation to reach our objective.

If you have not yet joined us, please consider making a suggested contribution of $1,000. Any other contribution level is also welcomed and appreciated. If you have reservations about making a contribution, please see the accompanying side bar "Not sure about contributing to the campaign."

We have included in this issue of the Bulletin a yellow, pre-addressed business reply envelope to facilitate your contribution. Your checks, either personal or corporate, should be made payable to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and sent in the envelope to 6300 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill. 60018. You also can charge your contribution to your Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card.

An additional component of our activities is much more political. For this purpose, the PAC of the AAOS also welcomes your contributions. These PAC funds are not used for public education, but are specifically directed to the political campaigns of those individuals running for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate who share our viewpoint. PAC checks should be made payable to the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and sent to P.O. Box 2748, Des Plaines, Ill. 60019-8701.

Thank you again for your participation and support.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is second vice president of the AAOS and the chair of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Spending Oversight Committee.

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