FROM OUR PAGES
In this section, we highlight visual and textual tidbits from past issues of the magazine. These messages from yesteryear remind us about how fast some things change, as well as about some timeless truths (occasionally unfortunate ones).
From the Fall 1977 issue
"We are in the Age of Malpractice," opined the late Donald Wilson, M.D., then an assistant professor of neurosurgery. "Never have so many doctors been sued by so many patients for so much money. And they are collecting.
Don Wilson: "Trust was the glue"
"The real causes for the malpractice epidemic go deeper than the superficial charges of bad practice," went on Wilson. "They spring from the delusion that medicine is a business." It used to be, he noted, that "a patient trusted a doctor. . . . Trust was the invisible glue that bound them together."
But "somewhere along the line, and not so long ago, the glue dried up. A gap developed between doctor and patient, which the lawyer filled.
"When we in this country have finally faced our delusion and know that a standard care of illness has become a right rather than a business deal, then," Wilson concluded, "patients, no longer consumers, will be gently shown that health is a quality of being for which they must share responsibility with their doctors, in an atmosphere of mutual trust."
The alumni columns in the same issue also touched on that era's malpractice crisis. Bruce Chandler, M.D., a 1974 DMS graduate, "was described as a 'pediatrician in limbo' in an article in the Machias, Maine, newspaper. It seems that he had just completed a residency in pediatrics at the Maine Medical Center and was being transferred by the Public Health Service to practice at the Lubec [Maine] Regional Medical Center. While he was en route to Lubec, the center closed, reportedly due to its inability to afford malpractice insurance."
Sadly, medicine is again (or is it still?) facing a medical malpractice crisis. Noted an August 25 article in the New York Times, "Around the country this summer, at least half a dozen hospitals have closed obstetric wards, others have curtailed trauma services, and a string of rural clinics have been temporarily shuttered as a result of soaring costs for medical malpractice insurance." Between 1995 and 2000, the average malpractice jury award rose more than 70%. And in the last year alone, malpractice premiums have doubled and tripled in some areas.