Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 22, 2004

Come together to pass reform of tort system

A General Assembly special session has been called, and we are overdue for bipartisan action to deal with Maryland's most serious health care and economic crisis in a decade ("Ehrlich calls for special session," Dec. 18).

In a carefully researched report, the Governor's Task Force on Medical Malpractice and Health Care Access has offered a realistic, practical set of recommendations to proceed out of an impasse that is, to some degree, the fault of the trial lawyers, who can receive up to 40 percent of a malpractice settlement.

Simply put, Maryland faces an exodus of doctors from practice and service to patients if the special session results in inaction or insufficient action on behalf of our essential health care providers - doctors and hospitals.

Seventeen states currently have statutes that specifically limit the amount of plaintiff's attorney fees. It is time for Maryland to join that group.

It would be a serious setback for Maryland's quality of life if the medical advancements developed in Maryland are not offered to our own citizens by sufficient numbers of qualified physicians.

In addition to the impact on doctors and patients, another fundamental question must be addressed: the impact on Maryland's economy.

How long will it be before Maryland's most respected medical institutions look to disassociate themselves from a state that creates a hostile environment for health care?

The governor's task force has pointed us in the right direction. The General Assembly's two presiding officers now need to act on behalf of the public. And in this case, the public consists of patients of doctors - that is, all of us.

In the pending special session, we know what is not needed: a political roadblock or a temporary "Band-Aid" that protects special interests at taxpayers' expense.

We, the public, also know what is needed: tort reform as an essential component of effective health care.

George S. Wills

Baltimore

The writer is a former employee of Marylanders for Malpractice Liability Reform.

Weed out the doctors who pose a danger

The Sun's article "Ehrlich calls for special session" (Dec. 18) brought welcome news that the governor and legislature will now respond to the malpractice crisis.

In the rush to handle this looming crisis, they should make sure that they resolve the problems driving the crisis rather than handing over money (such as tax dollars or "fees") to various interests or eliminating the public's legal protection against malpractice.

One thing that should be paramount is having the state impose tougher standards on doctors.

A second need is for a review and disciplinary board that actually works in the public's behalf and revokes the licenses of doctors who demonstrably provide poor, dangerous service to their patients.

Stanley R. Baker

Gambrills

Limiting lobbyists hurts public interest

A new policy will soon have lobbyists queuing up with the public to enter State House buildings for hearings and meetings ("Lobbyists losing their easy access to state offices," Dec. 16).

State employees, elected officials and media members will be the only ones exempted from the routine security checks. Lobbyists should be included in the exemption for several reasons.

Collectively, 725 registered lobbyists represent hundreds of thousands of Marylanders from all walks of life.

By hampering lobbyists' access to public meetings, government officials are effectively shutting out citizens with a variety of interests.

The elected officials and the media will be granted security passes; the lobbyists representing hundreds of thousands of everyday Marylanders should be included in common sense access procedures in Annapolis.

Carolyn T. Burridge

Annapolis

The writer is president of a lobbying firm.

Don't bargain away the right to report

Civil liberties should not be a partisan issue, so I hope Democrats aren't too gleeful about the shameful behavior of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in prohibiting state employees from speaking to certain Sun reporters.

Meanwhile, I'm disappointed to hear that The Sun has begun negotiations with Mr. Ehrlich ("Ehrlich discusses ban with Sun executives," Dec. 18). I understand The Sun's desire to work things out with the governor, but the First Amendment is not, and should not be, up for negotiation.

On behalf of all liberty-loving Marylanders, I ask The Sun not to give one inch.

Stephanie Dray

Owings Mills

When elected officials decide to pick and choose which media outlets or journalists they will speak to, it is an assault on all of us.

Government officials are supposed to be acting in the public interest, not suppressing those who criticize or expose their actions.

I hope The Sun will refuse to negotiate with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. regarding this or any other issue.

Neither The Sun nor any other media outlet can make deals with those it is responsible for reporting on and maintain its journalistic integrity.

Barbara Morrill

Severn

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