CHICAGO -- A doctor's proposal asking the American Medical Association to endorse refusing care to lawyers involved in medical malpractice cases drew an angry response from colleagues yesterday at the annual meeting of the nation's largest physicians group.
Many doctors stood up to denounce the resolution in passionate speeches, even after its sponsor, Dr. J. Chris Hawk, asked that it be withdrawn.
Hawk, a South Carolina surgeon, said he made the proposal to draw attention to rising medical malpractice costs. The resolution asks that the AMA tell doctors that, except in emergencies, it is not unethical to refuse care to plaintiffs' lawyers and spouses.
''It expresses the frustration I have with a broken system," Hawk said. He said doctors are leaving his state or retiring early because of insurance premiums, making it harder for patients to receive care.
Neurologist Michael Williams said that although he understood Hawk's frustration, the resolution should not have been introduced, because it seeks to discriminate against a group of people.
For years, the AMA's top legislative lobbying priority has been the medical malpractice system, and some delegates said the resolution could hurt those efforts by giving trial lawyers ammunition.
AMA committees considered more than 250 reports and resolutions yesterday. The committees will make recommendations to the group's delegates, who will begin voting today afternoon on policies to adopt.