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Now doctors get into the act: patient dropped for not signing malpractice-limit petition

Yesterday, it was an insurance company dropping coverage an 80-year-old for her benign political activity, now this. Last time I looked, the Hippocratic oath didn’t say anything about not treating the sick unless they held the same political viewpoint as the doctor? (Seattle Times):

Jamie Chavez knew her Richland obstetrician felt strongly about limiting medical-malpractice awards. He bent her ear and offered pamphlets every time Chavez, pregnant with her first baby, visited him for prenatal care.

But she couldn’t believe Dr. Mark Mulholland’s reaction in November when she refused to sign a petition at the doctor’s office for an initiative to limit jury awards in malpractice cases.

“I was kind of fired as a patient,” she said.

Mulholland, whose malpractice-insurance premiums jumped 30 percent last year, said he told her he couldn’t in good conscience provide medical care to someone with such contrary views on the issue…Chavez, an elementary-school special-education teacher, says she left Mulholland’s office in tears, worried that she might not find a doctor she trusted to help her through pregnancy and delivery. “I was four months pregnant. I had no idea where to go.”

Mulholland emphasizes that he didn’t abandon Chavez: He promised to provide emergency care for 30 days, and offered to refer her to one of his partners or to another physician in the community.

Even so, for medical-ethics experts, Mulholland’s action raises issues about how far doctors should go in support of a political cause. Some worry about the effect that exam-room lobbying might have on the doctor-patient relationship — or on the perception of the profession as a whole.

Physicians ought not to lobby patients on political issues — or any other issues,” said Dr. Wylie Burke, chairman of the Department of Medical History and Ethics at the University of Washington. “In my view the discussion of tort reform should never have occurred.”

How many of the more than 2,000 signatures were coerced from Mullholland’s patients? I know the malpractice insurance problem is a real concern for doctors, but strong-arming patients in this manner is ludicrous.

Thanks to House Blend reader Scooter for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding