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February 19, 1992

Free Clinics and Malpractice Claims-Reply

Author Affiliations

Roanoke, Va

JAMA. 1992;267(7):934. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480070049025

In Reply.  —Dr Murphy raises a common concern and I appreciate the opportunity to address it more fully.In 17 years, the Bradley Free Clinic of the Roanoke Valley (Va) has never been sued. I believe there is a fair amount of protection in being known as an all-volunteer clinic and the goodwill it represents. Murphy's feeling that malpractice risk is higher when serving the indigent is probably unfounded. In a recent study of Medicaid patients by Mussman et al,1 no increase in claims was noted. Quality assurance and working within the limits of a physician's usual expertise are just as important in the setting of a free clinic as elsewhere.Last, several states, like ours, have passed legislation (Chapter 396 of Title 54-276.12, Code of Virginia) protecting volunteer physicians from malpractice claims. This statute protects volunteer physicians at free clinics from "any civil damages for any act or