Language “police” try again

STAPHORST – Hoping to spur a change in moral values, a village in the so-called Dutch “Bible belt,” where religious belief runs strong, has approved a ban on swearing, according to Holland’s Expatica magazine.

The proposal passed in Staphorst, population 16,000, states that the ban “can be seen as a signal.” However, a caveat that says swearing isn’t banned when it is an expression of the constitutional freedom of speech could make it difficult to punish offenders.

In 1986, the Dutch High Court declared that stronger swearing bans passed in the region violated the right to free expression. One other town has a similar ban. The new campaign was a joint effort by two Christian parties, both small nationally but influential locally. The Dutch Association Against Swearing runs national billboard campaigns to admonish the bad-mouthed Dutch, noting that the Bible outlaws swearing.

One tour operator says that Staphorst “hasn’t changed in 300 years,” Expatica reported. Another says women there never wear trousers, except metaphorically, and most residents attend church twice on Sundays. Some of the locals even oppose television, blood transfusions and inoculations against dangerous diseases on religious grounds.

New study: Doctor costs not linked to court awards

LEBANON, NH – Huge jury awards and financial settlements for injured patients are not the cause of increases in doctors’ insurance premiums, according to a new Dartmouth College study. A more likely explanation, reports The Boston Globe, is that malpractice insurance companies have raised doctors’ premiums to compensate for falling investment returns.

Dartmouth economists looked at actual payments made to patients between 1991 and 2003, publishing their findings in Health Affairs. Payments grew an average of 4 percent annually, or 52 percent overall since 1991, but only 1.6 percent a year since 2000, they found. The increases are roughly equivalent to the overall rise in health-care costs, said lead author Amitabh Chandra, an assistant professor of economics at the college.

In contrast, malpractice insurance premiums for internists, general surgeons and obstetricians have skyrocketed since 2000, jumping up to 25 percent in 2002 alone. ProMutual Group, which covers about a third of the doctors in Massachusetts, raised rates an average of 11 percent last year, 20 percent in 2003, and 12.5 percent in 2002. Specialists such as obstetricians now pay almost $100,000 annually for their malpractice insurance.

“One of the things we know about medical malpractice payments is that they’re usually made when an injury occurred,” Chandra explained. “The injury has to be treated. And if it’s more and more expensive to treat injuries, then that will be reflected in payments.” best thing

Previous studies have shown that jury awards are often reduced after a trial to reflect doctors’ insurance coverage maximums, or because the plaintiff settles for less money to avoid an appeal.

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