Not long ago, President Bush came to Illinois to give a speech about "medical liability reform." He claimed, as others have, that doctors are fleeing the Illinois counties of Madison and St. Clair, mostly to get away from lawyers.
"Lawyers are filing baseless suits against hospitals and doctors," the president said. "That's just a plain fact."
I practice law in Madison and St. Clair counties, and I know that some residents are nervous. "What if I'm left without a doctor?" they think. It's hard to blame them. For nearly three years, we've had headline after headline about doctors leaving town. Then we had President Bush saying the same thing. (Never mind that it would take most residents of Madison and St. Clair counties only ten or fifteen minutes to cross the Mississippi River and find a doctor in St. Louis.)
Four months after the president's visit, the headlines continue. Here's one from last week's Alton Telegraph: "Another OB/Gyn leaving . . . Only remaining female baby doctor in area to head to Oklahoma."
It was the paper's lead story. If the headline were any larger, it would not have fit on the page.
So who's leaving this time? It's Dr. Christine Taylor. "There was just some uncertainty here," she told the newspaper. "It's the malpractice rates, but also because of other doctors leaving."
I know some of the doctors who have left, and their motives often had nothing to do with lawsuits. Meanwhile, new doctors have come to town, but this isn't considered newsworthy.
As for Dr. Taylor, she seems to be one of those classic cases: a doctor leaving town because of lawyers and lawsuits and "malpractice rates."
But wait. Could there have been another motive for her leaving?