On February 3, approximately 70 percent of New Jersey's 22,000 doctors took part in a work stoppage to protest the skyrocketing costs of malpractice insurance, according to Robert S. Rigolosi, the president of the Medical Society of New Jersey. The doctors either did not hold office hours or canceled appointments for non-emergency treatments or check-ups. But many of the physicians' protests were not wholly passive. Some 700 chanted "Tort reform now" outside of a Neptune, New Jersey, hospital.
In Paramus, some 100 physicians gave blood to show that they want to continue to treat patients, if only the politicians will address their concerns. At other hospitals and medical facilities, doctors carried placards demanding that something be done about their insurance rates, which in certain cases have doubled or tripled in a period of a year or two, reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Because most doctors refused to work under an intolerable tort law system that allows them to be victimized by predatory trial lawyers, many patients who might otherwise have been handled by the striking physicians had to turn to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. For example, the Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, New Jersey, reported treating fifty-two patients in a twelve-hour period when normally they treat sixty patients every twenty-four hours.
New Jersey governor James McGreevey's office received nearly a thousand calls from patients on February 3, after many of their doctors gave out his phone number on their office answering machines.
Indicative of the attitudes that drove Garden State physicians to strike—and one that they should not tolerate—was an opinion in the Hutchinson News, a Kansas newspaper, which complained about doctors who "put their financial interests ahead of medical ethics." The assumption is that doctors are mere servants whose duty it is to serve others, no matter how difficult the politicians and the public make it for them to practice their profession. The strike serves as a reminder that the best and the brightest in our society will tolerate this inverted and monstrous morality only for so long before leaving their tormentors to fend for themselves.
Newspaper reports say that the New Jersey action may well be only the first of many physicians' strikes in this country. Similar actions have been planned in New York and Connecticut.