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Posted by: on Jan 1, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2009

Journal Name: January 2009 - Vol. 45, No. 1

I just wanted to comment on the excellent article on the recent changes in Tennessee's already very lopsided medical malpractice laws ("Med-Mal Obstacles: New Tennessee Law May Reduce Frivolous Suites But Make Valid Claims More Difficult," by Rebecca Blair, September 2008 Tenn. Bar Journal).

Having worked for a plaintiff's attorney for several years, I saw firsthand just how hard it is to prosecute a medical malpractice claim. Of course, in a state where medicine is big business, it's hard to get anything passed that doesn't tip the scale in favor of the health care industry This new law would not have put such an unequal burden on plaintiffs had lawmakers considered removing the locality rule for expert witnesses. This rule is outdated and needs to go. Health care professionals in Tennessee are some of the best in the world. Gone are the days of the back-woods MDs who could not be expected to measure up to the "big city" doctors of places like New York or L.A. We have many outstanding, world-class hospitals in this state, who are world leaders in medical research and development. And even if that were not the case, these are the days of the Internet: anyone can have access to countless medical resources with a few strokes of a keyboard. There is no reason why a Tennessee physician should not be expected to be held to the same standards of practice as one from New York or L.A. All this rule does is make it difficult, if not impossible, to find a qualified expert witness.

Let's face it: most of them would like to be able to continue to practice for a while, which is hard to do if you've testified as an expert witness against one of the largest health care organizations in the area. It's time to make an equal playing field in the area of medical malpractice. Let's allow good claims to go forward on their merits, rather than kicking them out of the courts on a technicality. In the end, it will only help the health care industry maintain the level of care we have come to expect and enjoy in this state.
Patricia Ladd, Nashville