August 2003 Bulletin

Join liability reform initiative now!

"If not this crisis, which one?"

By David D. Teuscher, MD

The AAOS is currently in the early stages of a fund raising drive to support a campaign for medical liability reform on the federal and state levels. These reforms should reduce the cost of medical liability insurance, which has been skyrocketing in many parts of the country over the last several years. For this effort to be successful, we need your support—both personal and financial. Let me tell you why I think you should be involved with this very important, unprecedented campaign.

"If not you, who?"

Fundraising, advocacy and direct political activity are not topics covered in medical school or orthopaedic residency. Yet, we daily experience the impact of rules, regulations and government systems that are influenced or created by our elected leaders.

Many among us may find political activity distasteful. The reality is that if you are an orthopaedic surgeon in America, you are deeply involved in the political game. Your only decision is whether you to be a player or a spectator. Although you are one individual, you can make a difference. We may not achieve comprehensive national reform this year, but if we don't start fighting now, we will lose the war.

"All politics is local."

You, of all the Fellows in AAOS, have the most influence on colleagues in your community. They know you, admire you and work with you daily. Your actions and opinions apply significant professional peer pressure. When you demonstrate your commitment to this fundraising effort and to other political activities, you will stimulate their involvement by inspiration or perspiration.

"Hearts and minds are changed one at a time."

A letter or article from AAOS President James H. Herndon, MD, and the commitment of $1 million by the AAOS Board are valuable, but they pale in comparison to the impact you have in telling your story in the surgeons' lounge. After all, you are sitting there between cases probably complaining or commiserating about the latest burden the government has perpetrated upon you.

Why not use the opportunity to enlist the financial support of a colleague to this essential effort? Tell your story of personal commitment and ask colleagues to contribute and help you seek contributions.

"One man armed with courage is an army."

Embracing this essential political effort requires little personal sacrifice, but it does demand commitment to several easy but essential steps. First you must decide this is an important issue for you and make the requested $1,000 contribution. Do it today. A postage-paid envelope has been bound into this issue of the Bulletin to make it easier for you to contribute. If you cannot locate the envelope, send your check to: American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Medical Liability Reform Campaign, 6300 N. River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018.

Tomorrow, begin enlisting others by making direct personal contact with your sphere of influence within the AAOS Fellowship. Contact any Fellow you know on a first name basis—staff at your hospital, colleagues practicing in your town, members of your subspecialty organizations and previous training colleagues—either by phone or letter.

"No only means no for now."

Not everyone will be eager to make a contribution and may make the standard excuses. The article titled "Not sure about contributing to the campaign?" provides responses to some common misperceptions about the campaign.

If you have questions about the campaign, or want advice about how to approach colleagues regarding this issue please, don't hesitate to contact me or Robert Fine, JD, AAOS director, socioeconomic and state society affairs.

"Talk to your patients."

Your colleagues aren't the only ones who need to hear of your support for medical liability reform. The public plays an important role in this campaign and your patients respect you and your opinion. Talk to them and share your story. Ask them to share their compelling stories about difficulties with access to specialty care. If they agree with your call for national reform, ask them to call or write their Senators especially, but also their Representatives.

We collectively see more patients in a single day than the national trial bar sees clients in a month. All it costs us is the time to talk to our patients. Isn't that what we are supposed to do anyway?

Act now

Congress will soon return from its summer hiatus and the debate about medical liability reform legislation will begin anew. It is important to build support for this effort before our legislative representatives return. The time to act is now!

David D. Teuscher, MD, is a member of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Campaign Oversight Committee and the Professional Liability Committee. He can be reached via e-mail at sportdoctor@sbcglobal.net

How to contribute to the Initiative

Contributions of all denominations are welcome, although $1,000 is the suggested amount. Your personal check should be written to American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and sent directly to:

American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 N. River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018
Attn: Professional Liability Initiative


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