Doctors Take Steps To Protect Themselves Against Claims

Most of Dr. Vincent Pisciottia's patients sign an arbitration agreement before they see the doctor.

"What it does is you give up your rights to a trial by jury. We're giving' up the same right if issues that go the other way," he explained to a patient.

Giving up the right to a jury trial means outside parties or arbitrators will decide any malpractice claims against Dr. Pisciottia and his partners. The doctors began asking their patients to sign the agreement when they realized that the insurance pool the legislature created only solved part of the problem.

"The plus of the thing is we've been able to find out what our patients really think and about 90, this week I've not had one patient not sign."

Dr. Pisciottia says he doesn't know how long he'll be insured because his rates keep skyrocketing.

"They went up 20 percent last year, 45 percent this year and they're going to go up a projected 95 percent next year," he says.

The doctor says he's glad state lawmakers tried to help, but he says they didn't finish the job when they didn't make insurance affordable.

"They're not going to create a risk pool by putting' up 5-hunded thousand dollars. I mean people are suing' for multi million dollars. Just to defend a case, even if it's frivolous it's 30, 40 50-thousand dollars to defend a frivolous case."

Patients say they understand the need for the doctors to protect themselves with arbitration agreements.

"The court system has gotten so out of kilter`and awarding so much money and stuff like that that it's coming' outta everybody's pocketbooks," one patient's father, Ralph Anderson says.

"The way the courts were going and the juries were awarding these fantastic sums they were breaking everybody," patient Edward Tomaszewski says.

Dr. Pisciottia says his insurance company has notified him that at the current rates, coverage should be available for about the next two and a half years.

Despite the tough times, Dr. Pisciottia says he and his family are committed to stay in Mississippi. That's a decision he says he hopes he doesn't regret.