After a 30-year law career, during which he won more than $10 million in medical malpractice cases against physicians, Robert Dowd decided to switch sides and help physicians to protect themselves from liability. As a speaker for the National Medical Foundation for Asset Protection in Provo, Utah, Dowd offers free seminars to groups of 70 or more doctors. (The foundation covers his honoraria and travel expenses.)
He made the decision because he was so concerned about the country losing its standard of medical care as a result of the current liability crisis. “When experienced doctors are not willing to perform life-saving procedures such as mammograms and Caesareans because of lawsuit considerations, our nation takes another step backwards in its medical care,” he says.
To help alleviate the crisis, “I teach doctors what they're not taught in medical school: how they can be completely shielded from lawsuits,” Dowd says. He teaches them how to form family limited partnerships, which protect their personal assets. Once doctors know how to secure their personal property from a lawsuit, they don't need to worry about plaintiffs being able to collect anything but their insurance policy, Dowd says. They are then free to drop their malpractice insurance altogether or opt for the state minimum. “The training allows doctors to stay in practice no matter what tort reform is passed. Doctors need to use the legal system, not be abused by it.”
He also teaches doctors how to prevent lawsuits in the first place. He speaks from personal experience — he almost died because of a reaction to a prescription medication but decided not to sue because his doctor was a neighbor and had made an honest mistake. “Many patients would also feel less inclined to sue if they felt a personal relationship with their doctor,” he says. “I teach attendees that their humanity is one of the underutilized tools when it comes to lawsuit protection. They need to learn to show their humanity to the patients and juries as well.”
The decision to go from prosecutor to physician protector came after his mother, who had been a nurse for 50 years, died. “I began to renew my reverence for the mission of healthcare providers,” he says. “My mother disliked my suing members of the medical profession. If she were alive today, she would be thrilled at what I am doing.”
So far, Dowd has given presentations at the annual meetings of the American College of Forensic Psychologists and the Osteopathic College of Rheumatology, as well as to hospitals and medical centers around the country. His seminars are offered for Category 1 credit through Continuing Education Inc., an Accreditation Council for CME accredited sponsor.
For more information, contact Cameron Taylor, executive director of the National Medical Foundation for Asset Protection, at (800) 296-7009.