Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mintz's assurance in his May 11 letter that frivolous malpractice suits are rare would be comforting if it were true. Unfortunately, his disingenuous remarks did not accurately portray the way the "malpractice game" is played.
Although it is quite expensive for a plaintiff to bring a case to the courtroom, the cost to the malpractice insurance company representing the physician is just as high. In the event of even an utterly baseless lawsuit, it is far more cost-effective for the insurer to offer a settlement of $20,000 or so than to successfully defend the case at trial. Malpractice attorneys are well aware of this, and so when filing a lawsuit they will sue the hospital and every physician whose name appears in the medical record, no matter how peripheral his involvement. By negotiating a small settlement from each defendant, it is possible to generate $100,000 or more without doing much work or ever getting close to a courtroom.
This tactic, if employed by anyone other than the members of our esteemed legal profession, would be labeled extortion.
BRUCE M. SMALL, M. D.