In a speech at Little Rock Jan. 26, President Bush pointed out Dr. Sara McBee of Fayetteville and said that she'd stopped delivering babies because of rising insurance costs that were "a direct result of too many junk lawsuits."
Bush did not mention (although he knew it, according to McBee), that a medical malpractice suit is pending against McBee by a couple who say their child was born with brain damage and multiple disabilities because of mistakes by the doctor. But McBee says Bush was correct in saying she stopped delivering babies because of high insurance costs. The malpractice suit had nothing to do with the decision, she said.
Bush was promoting his legislation to restrict medical malpractice lawsuits. He told the crowd:
"Sara McBee is here. There's Sara. She's from Fayetteville, Arkansas. She practices family medicine. She was delivering between 80 and 100 babies a year. Now, there's a soul - a good soul, who loves life to the point where she's willing to take her talents and deliver babies. It must be an unbelievably satisfying profession to bring life to be.
"And yet, in July of 2002, her insurance premiums had more than doubled. See, the litigation culture made it nearly impossible for her to practice her love. I say nearly impossible, because she wouldn't break her commitments to expecting patients and hung in there for a year. But her premiums continued to rise, and Dr. McBee has stopped delivering babies, as a direct result of too many junk lawsuits. And that's not right. That's not right." (Applause.)
Roger and Linda Capper, parents of Levi David Capper, have filed suit in Washington Circuit Court against Sara McBee, D.O.; James W. Gorman, M.D., and Washington Regional Medical Center. McBee is a family practice physician authorized by WRMC to admit and attend obstetrical patients and perform vaginal deliveries, but not caesarean sections. Gorman is an obstetrician and gynecologist. According to the suit, McBee admitted Linda Capper to the medical center on the morning of Jan. 30, 2000. During the course of the day, McBee "did a lot of things wrong," Timothy L. Brooks, the Cappers' lawyer, says. Some of these alleged mistakes were reported by a nurse to Gorman, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at WRMC, according to the suit, but he took little action until finally performing a caesarean at 11:30 p.m. The suit says that Levi suffers from profound brain damage, that he has the development of a four-month-old infant though he's over 3 years old, that his condition is permanent, and that his life expectancy has been significantly reduced. Trial is set for May 24. This is the first suit against McBee. McBee said the White House had called her, invited her to attend Bush's speech and to sit at his table and talk with him, along with other physicians and hospital administrators, before the speech. "My understanding is that the Arkansas Medical Society gave them quite a number of names," she said. "I was asked to tell him why my partners and I quit obstetrics. The president was well aware of this lawsuit. I was well aware that if I stuck my neck out, the trial lawyers would try to make it sound like the suit was behind it."
Asked if she supported Bush's bill, she said she hadn't read it. "Nobody asked [at the White House] if I supported Bush or his bill. … I support the concept. Something is going to have to change."
Brooks said the Cappers were upset by Bush's remarks, because they believed there was a suggestion that their suit was frivolous. It's not, Brooks said.