South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020
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October 2004 - Volume 1 - Issue 3
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The Truth Behind the Three Strike Amendment

This November, voters will be voting on a seemingly innocuous amendment titled, "Public Protection from Repeated Malpractice." Sure, we all want to be protected from medical malpractice. But, as we all know, we should never judge a book by its cover or, in this case, an amendment by its title.

Ballot Item Number "8", (officially named Article X, Section 20 by the Florida state legislature), has come to be known as the Three Strike Amendment.

The amendmentís purported purpose is to eliminate "bad doctors" from the system by revoking the medical license of any physician judged guilty of at least three instances of medical malpractice. The amendment would include any past judgments too.

As appealing as this might seem at first glance, the consequences of passing this amendment are dire.

If the Three Strike Amendment is passed, the likely outcome will NOT be the removal of "bad" doctors from Florida. This service has been performed for years by Floridaís Medical Board of Licensure. The Florida State Board of Medical Licensure has disciplined more doctors (as a percent of licensed practitioners) than any other Board in the country (Florida Chapter ACP, 2004).

The likely outcome of passing the Three Strike Amendment will be twofold: First, doctors will be discouraged from exercising their constitutional right to a trial by jury. Second, access to quality healthcare will become more difficult and expensive.

The Three Strike Amendment practically forces a doctor to offer cash settlement for claims of medical malpractice. Even when a doctor is confident that proper care was given, he or she will still prefer to settle a case rather than take even a small risk of an adverse judgment. By capitalizing on the doctorís fear of going to trial, lawyers know that more doctors will want to settle out of court. Settlements mean easy money, and easy money is what trial lawyers want.

Few voters are aware that the Three Strike Amendment was NOT written by outraged patients or sponsored by a medical watchdog group. It was written by Floridians for Patient Protection, a group of trial lawyers.

For patients, the Three Strike Amendment is likely to hamper access to healthcare. Thatís because doctors will become choosier about the patients they accept. Multiple health problems? Diabetes? No insurance? These are the patients who will find access to healthcare the most daunting.

Passing of ballot item #8 could virtually eliminate the availability of specialists such as neurosurgeons and cardiovascular surgeons, both of whom average more than three claims of medical malpractice during their careers (Governorís Task Force Report, 2003).

Itís also noteworthy that the Three Strike Amendment could drive even more doctors away from Florida. Already, Florida is deemed "unfriendly" for doctors. If this amendment is passed, Floridians in need of healthcare will be greatly underserved.

There can be no denying, of course, that patients who have suffered from medical malpractice, should receive adequate and timely compensation. And further, doctors who repeatedly give improper care should lose the privilege to practice medicine.

But, just as injured patients should be compensated, doctors accused of wrongdoing have a right to defend themselves and be judged by a jury of their peers. Our state judicial system should never adopt an amendment, especially one written by lawyers for lawyers, that discourages an individual from exercising his or her right to a trial by jury.

fs Letís help make Florida a better place for doctors to practice medicine, and for patients to enjoy quality healthcare. Itís in the best interest of all Floridians to vote "No" on ballot item number 8.

Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., is a Palm Beach Gardens-based dermatologist and a Board Member of Healthcare Underwriters Groups, a physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For more information, call (866) 484-5715 or visit www.HUgroupfl.com
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