Tomorrow the D.C. Council plans to hold a hearing on the medical liability crisis in the District. One of the most troubling and unforeseen consequences of this crisis, and something the council should consider, is the decreasing number of physicians who are willing to practice in the District.

I am president of the medical staff at Sibley Memorial Hospital, from which several doctors in the prime of their practice have retired. Some of our obstetricians are no longer delivering babies, and new surgeons are settling in the suburbs rather than face the cost of malpractice insurance in the District. At one time Sibley had a waiting list of physicians who wanted to join the hospital's medical staff, but no longer.

Virginia and Maryland have passed legislation to reform malpractice liability, which has lowered the cost of malpractice insurance there. But if, for example, a Maryland physician comes into the District to see patients, he or she is charged a premium above the Maryland rate by the malpractice carrier. So why would a doctor come to Sibley, Howard University or Georgetown University hospitals, when he or she could, at lower cost, send patients to Holy Cross or other suburban hospitals?

Those of us who continue to practice in the District also will be patients someday. Will we be forced to look for care in Maryland or Virginia?



The writer, in addition to his position at Sibley, is a member of NCRIC Inc., a physician-owned provider of malpractice insurance.