Surgical Strike in Maryland

and it has nothing to do with bombing…
A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure

Surgeons in Washington County will begin turning away patients whose conditions are not life-threatening in hopes of forcing insurers to lower their malpractice premiums.

The work stoppage is scheduled to begin Nov. 15 with a majority of the county’s general surgeons, who handle a variety of procedures from appendectomies to vascular repairs.

But dozens of surgeons and physicians in other specialties are expected to announce soon that they also will begin turning down non-emergency work in November, said Dr. Karl P. Riggle, a spokesman for the Washington County Surgical Association.

The move could be the most drastic yet taken by medical doctors in Maryland, most of whom face a 33 percent increase in their insurance premiums. Doctors claim the rising rates are caused by large malpractice award payouts and threaten to drive them out of business, but their call for tort reform has been opposed by trial lawyers.

Of course, this will unfortunately result in is a few surgical emergencies from incarcerated hernias and the like, increasing the workload of ER docs in the area (“I couldn’t get in to see my surgeon…”). In this country we won’t see ER docs striking, as we’re nearly all either independent contractors with a no-due-process clause for firing (or not being scheduled, which is the same thing), or employees with just a straight up ‘you’re not working out…’. Surgeons are the best organized when motivated, and more power to them.

This is, unfortunately, the wave of the (near) future in medicine, voluntary strikes by docs to try to get the populace to influence legislators about malpractice legislation.

I’m thinking that lotteries really are bad for a culture: everything becomes an opportunity to get rich without actually having to earn it. The plaintiff standard of care now is perfection, and a bad or even sub-optimal outcome means a suit.

Good luck, surgeons. I hope it works for you, as the trickle-down helps us all. And, it might just be some Senators’ family member who gets cancelled, then something will happen nationally.


  1. This strike is unlikely to achieve much except getting page one stories in the Hagerstown paper and backpage mention elsewhere. Strangely, the Washington County area has lower malpractice insurance premiums than in other parts of the state.

    What will really energize the process is surcharges on medical services for medical liability coverage. That won’t make patients happy, but it will motivate them to call their state legislators and urge them to do something effective to contain the rate increases. Unfortunately, doctors have been gulled into believing that it is their duty to shield patients from the realities of medical costs and from the rising expense of care. It is a perverse notion, and it unfortunately undermines the process that is most likely to result in meaningful reform.

  2. I like the surcharge idea but with the extensive penetration of managed care with clauses in the agreements that physicians cannot charge patients beyond the agreed-to co-payments makes this option unlikely to be very effective.

    I agree with the concern that their efforts might be marginalized. They should seize the opportunity to secure the support of internists who have tort as well as other issues as concerns. These supporters don’t have to necessarily be in Maryland. Doctors are being affected all over the country.

    We need a nation-wide job action!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!