The West Virginia Medical Association and other Mountain State doctors are complaining that increased numbers of medical
lawsuits and higher malpractice
insurance premiums are creating a health-care crisis in the state. To examine these allegations, the Sunday-Gazette Mail reviewed thousands of pages of malpractice
reports filed with the state Board of Medicine.
About 3,000 of these reports, filed between Jan. 1, 1993, and Dec. 31,
2000, were entered into a computer database. The medical board provided
paper copies of the reports in nine, 3-inch-thick binders. The analysis in this series was based on a smaller set of those reports.
This series did not consider 836 reports from cases that were resolved before Jan. 1, 1993. Those reports were examined in previous stories. This analysis also did not cover 178 reports of cases filed over breast implants. These cases were considered by the newspaper to be product liability lawsuits, not claims
of medical malpractice
. In all, the Gazette-Mail analyzed the results of 2,260 medical malpractice
complaints that were resolved over the last eight years. Previously, West Virginia doctors and insurance companies were required to file with the medical board all reports of medical malpractice uits within 30 days of when the suits were resolved. In 1999, the
Legislature changed that law. Today, cases that were dismissed do not have to be reported.