Patients may show the answers to a jury only if both are decided
unanimously in their favor. Doctors may present answers if either is
answered to their benefit.
McCall said defense lawyers gain no real advantage by telling
the jury about one answer, if the other went against the doctor. Stolt
"There have been some wacky results," he said. "The physician generally
votes for the physician, and tends to work as an advocate and expert on
the panel. The others on the panel tend to be swayed by that advocate."
The plan's opponents allege that incentives might tempt the
doctor-panelist to vote for the doctor being sued.
Medical Mutual helped Maine's Medical Association push for the panel
insurer, Medical Assurance. As its name implies, Medical Mutual's
policyholders are also shareholders in the company, which represents a
majority of Maine's doctors.
"They have an ownership interest. They have an interest in making sure
that malpractice cases fail," Stolt said.
"I think that's an unfair attack and challenge to the ethics of the
medical profession," McCall said when asked about the allegation. "I have
to be anything less than objective."
Maine's Medical Association and Medical Mutual view the
pre-screening panel as a huge success.
"The panels have proved to be an effective form of alternative dispute
resolution - relieving pressure on an inefficient and overburdened court
Mutual said in a press release from its Web site.
The medical association touts the panel system as one of its top legal
and legislative successes. It also lauds its stance against "the efforts
of trial lawyers to severely weaken the role of the
"We think it's been successful for both the physician side and the
patient side," said Gordon Smith, a lawyer and executive vice president
for the association.
Smith noted that since its creation in 1987, the panel system has
"It has withstood 14 years of legislative tinkering and trial lawyer
whining," he said.
To contact staff writer Lawrence Messina, use e-mail or call 348-4869.