Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 1, 2013, 2:15pm

ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) -- According to the results of a poll released last month, a majority of Georgia voters believe doctors under unnecessary tests, procedures and medications to keep from being sued.

Sixty-two percent of the state's voters believe doctors do so to prevent litigation, according to the survey results, released by Patients for Fair Compensation Sept. 18.

Also according to the poll results, 79 percent of voters said ordering the unnecessary tests and procedures has a negative impact on health care.

"Georgians know from personal experience that when they see a physician that too often they have to endure extra tests, procedures or medications that really aren't necessary," Wayne Oliver, executive director of Patients for Fair Compensation, said in a statement.

"They know it comes at a price -- whether through increased insurance premiums, co-pays or out-of-pocket costs."

The practice is often referred to as "defensive medicine."

In Georgia alone, an estimated $14 billion a year is spent on defensive medicine, or about $1,400 per person annually, according to Patients for Fair Compensation.

Last month's poll was conducted by survey research company McLaughlin and Associates for the non-profit, non-partisan organization, which is promoting legislation in the Georgia General Assembly to replace the state's medical malpractice system with a no-blame, administrative model similar to a workers' compensation system.

Senate Bill 141 was proposed by Republican state Sen. Brandon Beach.

Under the bill, no doctor or hospital would ever be sued again. Instead, injured patients would take their claims to a panel of health care experts who would determine if an avoidable injury had occurred and would award compensation.

It would award compensation no different than under the current, adversarial tort system, and it would be funded with medical malpractice premiums.

"Georgians are weary about rising health care costs, and they want something to change," Oliver said. "The Patients Compensation System is the only idea that would actually bring down health care costs."

When asked about health care in Georgia, voters also had strong opinions:

- Sixty-seven percent said the cost of health care is too high;

- Thirty-one percent blame insurance companies for the high cost; 22 percent blame the government; 15 percent blame personal injury attorneys; and

- Fifty-four percent said the direction of health care is on the wrong track, compared to 26 percent who said it is going in the right direction.

A group representing trial lawyers criticized the poll.

Chris Kelleher, a spokesman for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle last week that the questions' wording influenced the voters' answers.

"In addition to being biased, deceptive and altogether misleading, the questions asked in this poll are gross mischaracterizations of the facts," Kelleher told the newspaper.

"This special interest-funded propaganda is as close to being a legitimate poll as their proposal is to being constitutional."

The survey of 800 likely general election voters was conducted via telephone Aug. 5-8.

According to McLaughlin and Associates, certain questions were split into proportionate samples of 400 likely voters.

The accuracy of the sample of 800 general election voters is within plus or minus 3.4 percent. The accuracy of the split sample is within plus or minus 4.9 percent.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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