The Aug. 14 editorial "Primal Scream in Maryland" noted that our state's physicians have been driven by the malpractice insurance crisis to the point of making attention-getting but essentially hopeless gestures. The vote by the medical staff of Prince George's Hospital Center to ask that the hospital's malpractice insurance requirement be rescinded, a request that cannot be approved by its board, is an example.

The correct interpretation of this symptom is desperation.

Some of those doctors are on the verge of closing their practices. We have been assured by various trial attorneys that this will not happen. But it is happening. In specialties at high legal risk, such as obstetrics and neurosurgery, insurance rates have begun forcing physicians into lower-risk specialties or retirement.

The governor's task force is seeking a solution, but critics do not believe a legislative response is necessary. That is a mistake. The crisis is real. The task force should require physicians to contribute their efforts to patient safety and quality of care. However, it must also address the tort process. No one advocates giving up the right to sue. But without some rational balance to prevent abuses of that right, we will preserve it at the cost of our access to medical care.

JOSEPH D. MOSER

Vice President for Medical Affairs

Anne Arundel Medical Center

Annapolis