Medical Justice League of America

September 4, 2007


A new company is helping doctors write “gag order” forms for patients who might want to post about them on one of those health information sites. It turns out they’re also doing some other interesting, if provocative, things.

This entry in the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog was intriguing:

Next time you go to the doctor, look for a new form buried in the stack of insurance and health-history paperwork you’re asked to complete. You might find a contract that would require you ask your doctor for permission to grade him or her online.

A new company called “Medical Justice” is selling services to doctors.  Among their offerings is a form that doctors can insist patients sign before providing treatment. The form forbids the patient from rating or reviewing the physician on any website or online forum.

“The whole notion of your reputation on the line and not having control makes physicians feel vulnerable,” Medical Justice CEO Jeffrey Segal told the Health Blog. “The goal is to regain control of the flow of information.”

We’re not proponents of anecdotal information to make medical decisions, whether it’s in the choice of physician or in determining a course of treatment. There is a lot of unsubstantiated information on the web, and it’s a health problem. And we’re sympathetic to beleaguered doctors.

Still, Dr. Segal’s solution sounds harsh, defensive, and insecure. All of us need to accept the fact that the Internet is here to stay, and that brute-force attempts to resist it aren’t as likely to be effective as more accommodating approaches. Handing yet another form to an anxious patient, with the implication that treatment will be withheld if its not signed, sounds heavy-handed.

The strident tone is borne out by a visit to Medical Justice’s website, where the slogan is “Relentlessly Protecting Physicians From Frivolous Lawsuits.” The subheading reads “Deterrence, Early Intervention, and Countersuit Protection.”

The website reads like a attempt to intimidate would-be litigants. Medical Justice promises to help organize and pay for counterclaims against people who sue physicians –  and to pursue suits against expert witnesses who testify for claimants, provide free expert witnesses for the defense, and “warn perpetrators with a strategic Early Intervention Program” intended to discourage the filing of claims.

“Medical Justice has been the driving force in getting numerous cases dropped,” the website boasts, “and has deterred many plaintiffs from filing frivolous suits.”

There is no question that frivolous lawsuits are a genuine problem, and that med mal premiums represent a crisis for many physicians. Physicians deserve to be protected from specious claims.

But the dominant tone at the Medical Justice site is rage – and therein lies the danger. The website comes perilously close to suggesting that the organization will discourage lawsuits through browbeating and intimidation, rather than a reasonable mustering of the facts.

The plan, and the concept itself, deserves further scrutiny. For example, the website claims under “Deterrence” that “In Florida, physicians are sued at a rate of 15% per year. (FPIC 2004 Q1 statistics, Crittenden). Matched by specialty, the overall suit rate for Medical Justice Plan Members practicing in Florida is less than 2%.” It continues:

A recent actuarial study of the Medical Justice track record by SG Risk, Inc. (Lyndhurst, New Jersey), concluded that the medical malpractice claim count against our plan members in Florida is statistically lower than those without protection (95% confidence level). Put a different way, Medical Justice plan members in Florida are sued much less frequently than their unprotected cohort.

Notice that it doesn’t say the study concluded that claim rates were reduced from 15% to less than 2%, or that the study concluded plan members are “sued much less frequently” – only that the plan’s members are sued at a “statistically lower” rate. Obvious question #1: Is that self-selection, because plan members are more cautious people in general? We can’t know.

A better risk management approach to medical malpractice is clearly warranted. And Dr. Segal et al. may have some interesting ideas. But their rhetoric borders on disturbing. and might even be used against their members at some point.

Conclusion: Real problem, genuine need, strident approach, questionable tactics – but worthy of more investigation and fine-tuning, either by this organization or another, more judicious one.

(WSJ link courtesy iHealthbeat)


10 Responses to “Medical Justice League of America”

  1. […] Eskow presents Medical Justice League of America posted at The Sentinel Effect, saying, “Richard Eskow examines “Medical Justice.” […]

  2. Alijor Says:

    Of course it’s self selection! The entire idea is ludicrous!

  3. . . . and so what happens if I rate the doctor under a pen name, or get someone else to post a reveiw about the doctor? How much is the firm charging doctors to control chaos?

  4. FedUPMD Says:

    I have reduced risk further by not seeing ANY medicare/medicaid or many other insurances. I have only 400 perosnal patients that all pay me $1500/year to be their doctor. I know them all very well and have time to spend to them. This combined with MJ , makes me sleep better in the night and I don’t have to fear lawyers anymore.

    A former patient of me tried to sue me over an ankle fracture I (missed) even though there was no disability or dysfuntion involved. I knew the case would be dismissed, but MAN how good it fealt to fight back for once. We doctors have to stop taking all the bullying and harrasssment from those only looking into reaping some uick bucks from us. If we were as united as the ambulance-chasers, we would prevail.

  5. Expert Witness MD Says:

    Here’s an article published in the December 2008 issue of New Jersey MD News: “Sanctions Sought Against Doctor Who Hired ‘Medical Justice, Inc.’ A NJ physician who was sued for medical malpractice has compounded his problems by seeking the aid of “Medical Justice, Inc.” Michael J. Sacopulos, Esq., an attorney from Terre Haute, Indiana representing “Medical Justice, Inc.,” wrote a letter on behalf of the physician to the plaintiff’s attorney in the malpractice case. The letter stated that “Medical Justice, Inc.” would seek “remedies” against any of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses who were found to offer “false or deceptive testimony,” particularly testimony “outside the scope of their training and/or field of specialty.” This letter prompted the plaintiff’s counsel to file a motion pursuant to the “NJ Medical Care Access and Responsiblity and Patients First Act,” NJSA 2A:53A-37, et seq., seeking an award of of sanctions in the amount of $10,000 against the physician. To make matters worse, the physician’s medical malpractice insurance carrier refused to authorize defense counsel to oppose the motion, and the physician was forced to retain personal counsel, at his own expense, to protect his interests…. The lesson to be learned is that court rules vary from state to state, and physicians should be represented by attorneys fully familiar with state law, when confronted with a malpractice complaint.”
    The unstated lesson to be learned is that a physician should be very careful to avoid even the appearance of witness interference, intimidation, or obstruction of justice when dealing with his own anger at being sued. The WSJ’s assessment of Medical Justice, Inc. was right on, in identifying its stridency and rage, the result of which was a clear violation of the NJ law cited above, prohibiting retaliation against expert witnesses in medical malpractice litigation. I would suspect that Medical Justice will have to pay for the defendant MD’s defense (and fine, if the motion is upheld) since it was their own ignorance of NJ law – compounded by blind “rage” – that produced the threatening letter getting their physician client in even more trouble.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Many times it is not the dr. fault but the personnel working around him or the x-ray tech who is unable to read an x-ray correctly or the machinery is old. Many times the dr. is dependent upon others. They should not be. Also with hmo’s many people are required to go to MD’s they really don’t want to go to because of this network business. But there is also many who are in the business for the money and are really not good dr.’s. A doctor helps deliver us into this world, helps us cope throughout our life and then usually escorts us out. Can we do w/o a doctor throughout our lives? I don’t know. What I do know is that a doctor can harm someone forever so everyone has to handle things with the utmost care.

  7. acai order Says:

    Great post. Insightful and entertaining as always! Keep up the good work

  8. I would prefer this to be an industry standard. As a private detective in maryland, I am usually involved in cases once a malpractice suit is underway…

  9. dave Says:

    If doctors dont want people to sue them-then give them no reason to do so. There are 15 million incidents of medical harm every year. Doctors refuse to get education in pain care- and pain is the major reason why people seek medical attention. Often doctors do painful procedures without analgesia- so lets face the facts- doctors thru their carelessnes toward painare asking for patients to either sue them or get revenge

  10. […] Medical Justice League of America. The Sentinel Effect’s Richard Eskow describes a new group that provides “gag order” forms to dissuade patients from reviewing their docs online, and also promises to “relentlessly” fight med mal lawsuits.” The situation he relates would be hilarious if it weren’t so lopsided and scary. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: