AAOS Bulletin - October, 2005

DMLR launches advocacy campaign with media roundtable

AAOS President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, Sen. Rick Santorum featured

By AAOS Washington Office

On October 6, Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR), a nationwide coalition of more than 230,000 physicians dedicated to advancing meaningful federal medical liability reform, launched its new grassroots recruitment and advocacy campaign. The AAOS is a founding member of the DMLR.

Who’s thrown our health care system out of balance?

To kick off the campaign, AAOS President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, who is also chair of DMLR, participated in a media roundtable on Capitol Hill, discussing the political landscape for federal medical liability reform legislation. He was joined by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), chair of the Republican Conference, and George L. Priest, JD, professor of law and economics at Yale Law School. Several reporters participated in the lively discussion on the growing crisis and the need for federal reform.

Dr. Weinstein focused on the serious consequences of the medical liability crisis, including access to care, increasing health care costs and the deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship. Professor Priest provided additional economic evidence supporting the impact of the medical liability crisis on the delivery of health care. Sen. Santorum discussed the major problems faced by his state and his hope “to move the debate forward” in the Senate. He indicated that “medical liability was in the queue behind asbestos” lawsuit reform and hoped for activity early in 2006.

Redesigned Web site

A major component of the DMLR effort is a redesigned Web site at www.ProtectPatientsNow.org. Through the site, patients, doctors and other concerned citizens will have greater opportunities to engage in the battle to pass medical liability reform legislation.

“Too many patients across the country are suffering because they can’t get the care they need when they need it,” said Dr. Weinstein. “Personal injury lawyers are forcing good doctors out of business, out of state and out of medicine altogether. They are spending millions to block reform and preserve the status quo.”

The Web site focuses on the impact that personal injury lawyers and lawsuits have on physicians, which is illustrated by a series of animations. One asks the question: “Who’s thrown our health care system out of balance?” On the scales of justice are patients and physicians on one side and “greedy personal injury lawyers” on the other. As money amasses around the personal injury lawyers, the scales are thrown off-balance, and physicians are left hanging. The animation can be easily forwarded to others to help build an active, grassroots network.

“Our goal is to get medical liability reform advocates at all levels educated, energized, and activated for the next crucial round of this battle,” Dr. Weinstein added. “The situation is deteriorating every day. Lawyers are getting rich and patients are paying the price.”

The Web site utilizes cutting-edge grassroots techniques and interactive features to involve visitors in reform efforts. Among other features, the Web site includes:

• Petitions for doctors and patients that allow citizens to make their views known in Congress

• Educational, up-to-the-minute information about the medical liability crisis and reform efforts

• A state map with detailed information about state medical liability reform efforts

• An opportunity for patients to tell their personal stories

The physician section of the Web site includes information on the campaign, an opportunity to sign up for regular e-mails and a free poster for your office that can be ordered or downloaded from the site. The poster asks “Are you sick of health care that takes too long, costs too much and makes lawyers rich?”

“DMLR’s new Web site will be an important part of our effort to mobilize grassroots support for medical liability reform,” said Dr. Weinstein. “Congress must make reform of our broken medical liability system a top priority.”

Additional efforts

Additional major components of the DMLR campaign include:

• Radio tours and radio news releases featuring physicians, on both a national and state (Washington and Maryland) basis

• Press release/press kits, which include a CD with animations from the DMLR Web site, were sent to 180 reporters around the country.

• An animated e-mail was sent to more than 80,000 recipients. The animation was also distributed via CD to 180 reporters and congressional and White House staff.

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