A group of Texas doctors are speaking out against personal injury lawsuit ads after a statewide study found an alarming number of physicians are increasingly concerned about legal advertisements targeting their patients for medical lawsuits.
Conducted on behalf of the Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) organization, researchers found that more than eight in ten doctors across the state now believe some of the ads can lead patients to stop taking their medications as prescribed to them by their doctors.
Physicians also expressed concern that at least some of the advertisements can be misperceived as factual, medical information, even ultimately steering patients away from their doctors to lawyers for medical advice.
One of those taking the strongest stand is Dr. Christine L. Canterbury, an Obstetrics & Gynecology specialist at the Corpus Christi Women’s Clinic and president of the Bay City Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse organization.
She recently penned a widely-circulated op-ed condemning the growing practice of personal injury lawsuit ads being passed off as actual medical advice offered by licensed professionals.
The TALA survey came as a direct response to an outbreak of personal injury lawyer advertising designed to recruit patients into medical lawsuits. In Texas, the issue is particularly pressing given a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform study found several nearby cities placed in the top of national rankings for personal injury lawyer advertising spending.
“The amount of personal injury lawyer advertising on television and, even more so, online continues to skyrocket,” Jennifer Harris, executive director and spokesperson for TALA, told the Record. “That’s why Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse organizations have joined forces to raise awareness among consumers about this type of advertising. As a doctor, that’s something that troubles me greatly.”
Like Canterbury, medical authorities across the state openly lament the way all the easily flowing misinformation can lead to patients doubting the treatment they are receiving or even electing to alter the way they take their medications without first consulting a doctor.
Collectively, 66 percent of Texas doctors surveyed agreed that personal injury lawsuit ads can lead to patients doubting their treatments in one form or another and three in ten indicated they know of instances where patients have suffered negative consequences stemming from personal injury lawsuit ads.
Estimates are personal injury attorneys across the country now spend as much as $900 million on annual advertising, much of it, some contend, concentrated on unproven theories and misinformation disseminated via lawyer-funded websites disguised as factual health information sources.
“These sorts of ads can be highly deceiving, and that’s why we’re concerned,” added Harris. “Consumers may not realize that doctors are not the ones dispensing the information, offering the publications or providing advice.”
While stressing that patient adherence is critical to the recovery process for all patients, Canterbury also insisted that many doctors are now perturbed with the way some personal injury lawyers have taken to the business of offering medical advice without being bound by any of the professional obligations that put the patient’s health above all else that all licensed physicians are.
“We’re hoping our education and outreach efforts will elevate the attention to this issue among lawmakers and regulators,” said Harris. “We also hope it makes patients and consumers more aware of this type of possibly deceptive advertising. We’ll certainly be watching to see what sort of legislative or regulatory fix might be proposed and how we can support reforms.”
In the end, Harris stresses that TALA’s message of “don’t let a lawyer be your doctor” is clear.
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