TLR Article of Interest
Guest Opinion

Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Why This Doctor is Leaving His Hometown

By Dr. Robert M. (Marty) Reynolds

I was born in Corpus Christi and went to high school at Carroll. After finishing college, medical school, and a residency in anesthesiology, I returned back to Corpus Christi.

I bought a house and began raising my family here. I was back home and practicing medicine in the same hospitals I had worked in as an orderly during high school.

When I started practicing medicine, I knew there was always the possibility of being sued; however, I thought it would never happen to me.

I have always tried to practice medicine in a conscientious and caring manner. I've tried to take time to visit with my patients and explain things so that they would understand. I'd strive to guide gray medical decisions by thinking of my patients as if they were a member of my family. I thought any doctor who practiced this way would never be sued. I was naive.

Over the years I've been shocked to find so many of my physician colleagues being sued. The doctors I respected the most seemed to be sued just as frequently as anyone else. It seemed that whenever there was a bad patient outcome, regardless of how well or not a patient was cared for, a lawsuit would typically follow.

I also had always believed in the nobility of the legal system. I thought if a doctor was unjustly sued, everything would still be ultimately just and fair when the case went to court. Once again, I was naive.

Doctors always lose when a malpractice suit is filed. Even though 87 percent of malpractice lawsuits are dismissed without any payment, there is tremendous legal expense in defending frivolous lawsuits. Nueces County has one of the highest lawsuit rates in the state. The cost for malpractice insurance has soared. When my anesthesia group of 20 physicians renewed our insurance, one quote was for $450,640.

Many lawyers would like you to believe that the cause lies with greedy insurance companies. I'd love to hear these lawyers explain why 14 of the 17 medical malpractice insurance underwriters will no longer offer coverage for this area. Why would almost all the insurance companies leave if they were making so much money? The only real winners in this game are the lawyers . . . they never lose.

Two of my partners have been sued because their teenage children were involved in minor traffic accidents. One suit asked for $500,000 and the other for $800,000. Recently, three of my partners were threatened with a lawsuit while they were simply visiting with a patient and family prior to surgery. Another physician was videotaped when meeting with a critically ill patient prior to open-heart surgery. He was told, "We are just documenting everything for our lawyer."

City's Economic Future is Doomed

In this city, everywhere you look, trial lawyers are soliciting clients. Look at your phone book cover, the freeway billboards, the local TV ads, and even the ads in this newspaper. Nueces County also has one of the most plaintiff-friendly courtrooms in the nation. If you were in charge of a large company and were looking for a new business location, would you consider moving to a city that is saturated with plaintiff lawyers and junk lawsuits? As more companies move away, and less choose to locate here, the economic future of our city is doomed. This city's leadership is missing the big picture.

The exodus of physicians has begun. I've known over a dozen doctors or other professionals who have recently left Corpus Christi. Many doctors in my group are planning to leave. We've tried to hire additional anesthesiologists for years, but no one will come here.

My last day in practice here is May 30. I'm sad about leaving my hometown. However, I believe our city is sick and the prognosis is bleak. I hope one day soon that Corpus Christi will wake up before it is too late.

Dr. Robert M. (Marty) Reynolds, an anesthesiologist, has decided to relocate in Kerrville.

Copyright 2003 Corpus Christi Caller-Times.