Monday, August 29, 2005

Southern Illinois loses another orthopedic surgeon

From the Belleville News-Democrat:

Dr. Donald Serot's announcement that he was quitting medicine took everyone by surprise.

A mainstay of the area's shrinking pool of orthopedic surgeons, Serot, 58, was known as both an aggressive marketer and a surgical innovator.

As owner of the Center for Orthopedics in Belleville, Serot brought in hundreds of patients -- many of them from outside St. Clair County-- for knee and hip replacements.

Performing operations two days a week at Belleville's Memorial Hospital, Serot averaged about 500 surgeries a year and grossed at least $1.5 million in revenue, Illinois secretary of state records show.

But on July 27, Serot announced suddenly that he was leaving medicine for good.

"Despite all the rumors, I am merely leaving because the medical world has changed so drastically in my 28 years in practice," he wrote in a letter to Memorial Hospital colleagues.

Two weeks before his sudden announcement, though, Serot settled a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against him in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

The Metro East area (the Illinois side of the the St. Louis metropolitan area) is the lawsuit capital of America. Madison County (ironically, the home of the Downstate Pundit) is nationally known as a good place to file lucrative class-action suits.

Belleville is in neighboring St. Clair County. For years, doctors have been leaving St. Clair and the other Metro East counties because they can't afford the medical malpractice premiums insurers charge doctors practicing medicine there. Neuro-surgeons, oby-gyn doctors, and orthopedic surgeons are hard to find in Metro East. The John Edwards types have chased them away, compelling the residents of this area to travel far from home to find the medical services they need.

Of course, the Democratic Party, the "party of the little guy," has little to say about this problem, because of course trial lawyers are a massive source of political donations for the Dems.

Last week, Governor Blagojevich (yes, a Democrat) finally signed a tort-reform bill placing caps on medical-malpractice suits. But it was too late for Dr. Serot. Sure, he claims family considerations are the reason for his leaving medicine. Perhaps that's true, or maybe he's too much of a gentleman to tell the nasty truth.

Then again, maybe Dr. Serot knows that doctors in Metro East--and those in need of medical help from that area---aren't safe yet.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

At some point in the not-too-distant future -- perhaps it already happened Thursday after Gov. Blagojevich signed his new law limiting medical lawsuits -- a doctor somewhere in Illinois probably will make a mistake, causing his or her patient a catastrophic injury.

That will trigger not just a lawsuit against the doctor and/or the hospital, but a lawsuit seeking to have the new law Blagojevich just signed declared unconstitutional.

Illinois' trial lawyers say this law violates all the same parts of the state Constitution that are still in place from 10 years ago and 30 years ago when the state Supreme Court struck down laws limiting the amount of money juries can award victims of medical malpractice to $500,000 for non-economic damages.

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