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25 Officers Catch Duo Having Sex in Park: Police


Anyone who chooses to have sex in a public place likely isn’t scared of having an audience. But the crowd that a North Philadelphia man and a Clifton Heights woman allegedly attracted on Tuesday ended up landing them behind bars.

Twenty-five police officers were taking part in a bike training program in Upper Darby Tuesday afternoon. The annual, week-long program provides bike-riding training to officers from several departments, including Clifton Heights and Haverford.

The officers were riding their bikes in Naylor’s Run Park around 4 p.m. when they say they stumbled upon 41-year-old Jennifer Harvey and 37-year-old Richard McBride. Despite the 92-degree weather, police say the two were having sex on a park bench near a baseball diamond.

“There they are, on the first base line,” said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood to Philly.com. “There’s a bench, she is bent over the bench and our friend is behind her with his pants down to his ankle.”

While no children were around at the time, the officers arrested the duo and charged them both with open lewdness and disorderly conduct.

“Imagine being arrested by 25 cops,” Chitwood said to Philly.com. “They were as shocked as the police were.”

Photo Credit: Upper Darby Police Department

Water Main Breaks Near Hospital


Crews are at the scene of a water main break in Northeast Philadelphia.

The 12-inch main broke late Wednesday afternoon on 2701 Holme Avenue near Nazareth Hospital. The break caused low water pressure at the hospital. The water pressure is now back to normal however.

Holme Avenue was also shut down for several hours but has since been reopened. Crews continue to repair the broken water main.

Stay with NBC10.com for more details on this developing story.

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25 Bike-Riding Officers Catch Duo Having Sex at Park

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Photo Credit: Daniel Plante, Breaking News Network

Local Reaction to Gay Marriage Decisions


In the final session before breaking for Summer, the Supreme Court handed down two historic rulings today for gay rights.

"We are thrilled that we are one of the states that had marriage equality in place before DOMA was overturned and we are very proud that the Supreme Court actually cited our Delaware marriage law in the decision," said Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware.

The Supreme Court's first decision lifted part of a federal law, known as DOMA,  that denied married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

In the second ruling, the justices decided not to overrule a trial court's previous decision that a ban on gay marriage in California was unconstitutional. That means same-sex marriages will be able to resume in the state.

In Delaware, gay marriage will become legal next week. "What the overturn of DOMA means is that when couples in Delaware begin to get married on July 1, their marriages will be treated as fully equal by a federal government," said Goodman.

Because of today's ruling, there are more than 1,100 benefits and protections of federal law that will now be available for same sex couples.

"I think most people actually take for granted all the legal issues that go along with a marriage. Until you don't have it, you don't realize what you are missing out on," said Joe Parisi, 29, of Philadelphia, who is currently planning an October 2014 wedding.

Besides taxes, social security and pension benefits, same-sex couples will have the same rights when it comes to veterans death benefits and immigration.

"None of us think twice that a married couple, that one should be able to sponsor the other for citizenship, but that has not been true for same sex couples," said Goodman.

While this ruling means something different for Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, same-sex couples view today's decisions as a major step in the right direction.

"This was a thrilling victory for me and my partner," said Parisi. "In a perfect world, I would like to see more states see this as a tipping point and start to legalize gay marriage, like in Pennsylvania, or at least recognize legal marriages in other states."

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have already adopted same-sex marriage.

"While this is a day of celebration for legally married same-sex couples, 37 states, including Pennsylvania, still treat gay and lesbian citizens and their children as unequal and second-class.  But work to win the freedom to marry here in the commonwealth will continue," said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania.

While activists work to break down barriers in states that don't allow same-sex marriage, they face opponents, like the Delaware Family Policy Council, who released this statement after today's ruling.

"Today 38 states and 94% of countries worldwide affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman, just as diverse cultures and faiths have throughout history. The Supreme Court’s decision doesn't change the fact that society needs children, and children still need a mother and a father."

President Barack Obama praised today's 5-4 rulings, saying the Supreme Court righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.

"We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," said Obama.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Eagles Provide Inspiration for Cancer Survivor


Chad Jones, 12, took inspiration from Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to battle cnacer. Maclin himself had a cancer scare and can relate to what Jones went though.

Caught on Cam: Man Attacked on SEPTA Bus


Philadelphia Police are on the hunt for three men caught on surveillance video attacking another man on a SEPTA bus.

On Tuesday, at 12:35 a.m., police say the three suspects followed a 25-year-old man onto a SEPTA bus on the 4800 block of north Broad Street in the Logan section of North Philadelphia.

Surveillance video captured the suspects speaking to the victim and then attacking him. The suspects kicked, punched and stomped the man repeatedly as he fell to the floor. The suspects then ran off the bus and fled north on Broad Street from Wyoming Avenue.

Credit: Philadelphia Police

Investigators say the victim suffered injuries to his eye, face and arm. The first suspect is described as a medium-built man in his late teens to early 20’s with a goatee. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, Khaki pants and black, blue and white New Balance sneakers.

The second suspect is described as a man in his late teens to early 20’s wearing a white tank top, dark shorts and white/black PUMA sneakers.

The third suspect is described as a man in his late teens to early 20’s with a stocky build. He was last seen wearing a yellow and blue striped Polo shirt, dark jeans and white sneakers.

If you have any information on this incident, please call Philadelphia Police.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Police

Group Helps Seniors During Extreme Heat


The entire area is under a heat wave which can be extremely dangerous for the elderly. NBC10’s Chris Cato has more on a volunteer group that keeps a close eye on seniors in the summer heat.

Vandals Target Shed Built for Homeless


Police are on the hunt for vandals who targeted a building built for the homeless in Levittown.

Advocates for the Homeless is a Bucks County group that provides temporary help for the homeless, sheltering as many as 40 homeless people in churches every night during the winter. They also drive them to meals during the summer.

The group was in the process of building a garage where they planned on storing items for the homeless, including sleeping bags, cots and toiletries. Using volunteer workers, the group managed to raise $10,000 to get the necessary supplies to build the garage. On Tuesday however, members of the group say a person or people vandalized the shed, destroying cinder blocks and other supplies. Ultimately, the vandalism caused thousands of dollars in damage.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Mike Hepp, one of the volunteers.

Due to the vandalism, the completion date for the shed, originally set for July, will now have to be pushed back and money for new supplies will have to be found.

“I pray for the people that did the damage,” said Penny Martin, one of the group members. “They definitely have problems in their own hearts.”

Despite the pushback, Hepp is confident the building will eventually be completed.

“We’re going to get it back and get this building up regardless,” he said.

The church, which owns the site where the shed is being built, is considering installing security cameras. Martin is also asking some of the homeless people who the group supports to keep watch. The group also plans on filing a police report.

CLICK HERE to visit their website and make a donation.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

Man in Van Tries to Lure 2 Girls: Police


Police are on the hunt for a man who they say tried to lure two girls in Pine Hill.

A 13-year-old girl says she was walking on West Branch Avenue around 12:25 p.m. on Tuesday when a white van pulled up next to her. The girl told police that a man inside the van told her to get inside. Police say a witness walked toward the girl and the van sped off.

Later that day, around 7 p.m., police say an underage girl was walking on Erial Road towards Hickstown Road. The girl says a white van began to follow her as she walked and then sped off when another witness approached the girl.

The vehicle in both incidents was described as a white Econline style van. The witness in the first incident says the van had dark tinted windows in the back.

The driver of the van is described as a dark skinned male in his 30’s with short, dark hair parted at the side, dark eyes and a mustache.

If you have any information on this incident please call Pine Hill Police at 856-783-1549 x 426.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

The One That Got Away


To say that the Phillies have been a woeful offensive team this season would be a bit of an understatement. Despite some bright spots, they are near the bottom of the league in runs per game, runs, walks, on-base percentage, and OPS.

One of their biggest issues on offense is the fact that right field has essentially been an offensive black hole for the entire season. The de facto starting right fielder – still, somehow – is Delmon Young, whose tenure in red pinstripes most assuredly hasn't gone according to Ruben Amaro's plan. The 27-year-old has a .667 OPS in 158 at-bats, which is just a tick above Freddy Galvis (.641), who isn't known for his bat.

But, it's not like Young is the only guy who has struggled this season. There's also the short-lived Ezequiel Carrera experiment, which lasted all of 13 games and resulted in a .327 OPS and one hit. Then, you have John Mayberry, who has fared well enough this season, with a .758 OPS and five homers over 67 games between center and right. We can't forget about Laynce Nix, who is inexplicably making more money this season than any other outfielder on the team, despite having all of two home runs and a .592 OPS in 57 games.

So, yeah, it's been bad times in right field for the Phillies this year, who collectively own a .668 OPS at that position this season, which is second worst in the National League and 27th out of 30 Major League teams. They've hit all of nine home runs, and are getting on base at a .292 clip. To put it mildly, their right fielders are pretty bad.

It didn't have to be that way, because Charlie Manuel could have filled out the lineup card with a right fielder who is currently flourishing with the Chicago Cubs: Nate Schierholtz.

Schierholtz, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the Hunter Pence trade, didn't do too much in 37 games following the trade deadline last season, but he did have a nice enough line of .273/.319/.379 with a homer and five doubles. He wasn't lighting the world on fire, but he was young, cheap, and under team control until at least 2014. But then, Ruben Amaro made the head-scratchingly strange decision to non-tendered the outfielder, which essentially made him a free agent.

The story behind that move is an interesting one, in that there was no good reason for the Phillies to let him go. He wasn't a bad player, he didn't have a career-threatening injury, and he wasn't expected to make too much money in arbitration. Not to mention the fact that he was essentially replacing a guy that the Phillies traded a big chunk of the farm for in the prior season, so you'd think they would want to hang onto him.

It didn't take long for Schierholtz to sign with the Chicago Cubs, where he now finds himself having the best year of his career. In 203 at-bats, he has a .300/.350/.576 line, with 11 homers and 32 doubles. If you're keeping score at home, he has more home runs than every Phillies outfielder not named Domonic Brown, and his OBP and OPS would be tops among Phillies starters. To boot, he's earning all of $2.2 million dollars this season, or roughly 9% of Ryan Howard's 2013 salary.

One of the biggest reason's for Nate's success in Chicago is due to the simple fact that Cubs manager Dale Sveum has played him almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. Of his 2013 at-bats, all but 20 of them have come with him having the platoon advantage.

That's not to suggest that Schierholtz would have had the same kind of performance with the Phillies had he been given the same opportunity, but given how dire their right field situation looks right now, he'd have rounded out what is starting to look like a solid offensive outfield.

Would the Phillies be a contender with him in right field instead of Delmon Young? Most assuredly not, but this is just another baffling move in what has become a series of baffling moves for Ruben Amaro.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Body of Missing Woman Found


Police have identified a body found in the woods Monday as a missing Gloucester Township woman.

Carol Reiff, 59, was reported missing Friday from her home at the Lakeview Apartments located at 590 Lower Landing Road in Blackwood, N.J., according to Gloucester Township Police.

Family members say they last heard from Reiff Thursday evening after she told them she had plans to travel to Manahawkin, N.J. to visit other family members.

But investigators say she never arrived and family members never heard from her after.

Police say Reiff’s car was found in front of her apartment home.

On Monday around 11:50 a.m., police say they found Reiff's body near the Lakeview Apartment complex.

While police were able to identify the body, investigators say an autopsy performed Monday night was unable to determine a cause of death. While Reiff's death has not been ruled a homicide, officials say they are still treating the circumstances surrounding her death as a criminal investigation.

Police are currently offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information regarding how Reiff died. If you have any information on her death, please call the Camden County Prosecutor's Office at 856-225-8653 or Gloucester Township Police at 856-228-4500.

Photo Credit: Gloucester Township Police

Caught on Cam: Man's Obscenity-Laced Tirade Threatening Police


A Chester County man goes on a profanity and slur-laden tirade after being pulled over by police for a traffic stop and it’s all caught on camera.

But it didn't end there.

Later, police say, the man went to the police department's parking lot and vandalized an officer’s personal car.

The outburst takes place in the parking lot of Liberty Union Bar and Grill in the early morning hours last Friday. On the video, Matthew Walter, 36 of Chester Springs, Pa., can be heard berating two Upper Uwchlan Police officers.

“You mother f***er. You pulled me over for a speeding ticket c***sucker. You’re a f***ing lying sack of s**t. Where’s the tape,” Walter can be heard shouting at officers.

Police say Walter had been pulled over after officers noticed him committing traffic violations in the southbound lanes of Route 100.

After yelling at the officers for a short time, the 36-year-old then told them to get back into their van and “f***ing go.” The officers can be seen returning to their marked SUV and leaving.

The video goes on for more than six minutes with Walter continuing to yell at a restaurant manager, as two other officers look on. Walter then threatens those officers.

“Wait until I catch you without your f***ing uniform on. And don’t worry, I will.,” he says. “I know where you live, and you live, you sorry mother f***er.”

Additional officers can be seen pulling up to the parking lot as Walter continues to argue with police. He can be heard telling one officer, he was pulled over for speeding, but got a ticket for something else.

As the officers walk away, he uses a homophobic slur to describe them.

Shortly after arguing with restaurant staff again, Walter gets into his silver Ford F-150 and drives away.

Upper Uwchlan Police say after the incident at the Liberty Union Bar and Grill, officers noticed Walter parked in the township’s municipal lot. However, when they returned to the parking lot, he was gone.

A short time later, police say they found Walter walking through the police department’s parking lot. When they stopped him, he again became belligerent towards them, police say.

When the officers checked the lot, they found an on-duty officer’s personal vehicle had been vandalized with a rock. Police say surveillance video shows Walter vandalizing the car and taking photos of license plates.

Walter was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, institutional vandalism and harassment. He is out on $5,000 bail.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan commended the officers for showing restraint in the situation.

“The officers were a model of restraint here. They would have been justified in taking much more aggressive action,” he said.

DA Hogan says Walter was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, but that the Chester County Sheriff revoked that license.

“To threaten a police officer like that…‘Bang, he’s going in handcuffs,’” DA Hogan said.

Upper Uwchlan Police Chief John DeMarco said he could not comment as to why officers didn't arrest Walter when he allegedly threatened them -- citing the pending criminal case.

Walter’s attorney, Joseph Green, says he’s not aware of the video, but that his client has a history with the Upper Uwchlan Police Department. Green says he and his client are looking forward to present all the facts of the case in court.

A preliminary hearing in the case was continued Wednesday. It is scheduled to resume August 6.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

Sequester Hits Home for Pa. Moms, Children


Federal funding cuts may begin to hit home for women in Pennsylvania who participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

The WIC program provides families with vouchers for an array of food items including whole grain and soy products, jarred infant food and infant formula, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, the program in Pennsylvania is losing $6 million in federal aid.

Mother of two, Melanie Bagnell, said the program’s services are vital to her family’s well-being.

“The WIC program helps all types of women out that have kids because the formula is expensive nowadays. One of the main reasons why WIC is so helpful is they try to have you and your kids be healthy. They give you healthy food to eat. Like I just got the farmers market checks and the fruits that they have are like watermelon and summertime fruits that are healthy for the kids,” she said.

Bagnell, 21, who has been participating in the program for two years, said she wouldn’t be able to afford some of her family’s food needs without the help of WIC.

WIC is one of several non-defense discretionary programs that faced mandatory funding cuts due to sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts written into law in 2011 when Congress failed to pass a long-term deficit reduction plan. The goal of the federally funded program is to improve the health of participating pregnant women, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children.

It is expected that these cuts will affect services for approximately 6,500 Pennsylvania women and children each month.

Communications Director for the Department of Health Aimee Tysarczyk said cuts like these could threaten services the program will be able to provide for years to come.

“Pennsylvania will do all it can to maintain services at the level we had been previously providing, despite these cuts at the federal level; however, a significant drawback is that the growth of the program will be limited, which means potentially limiting access in the future to those who need the services most,” she said.

Last week Governor Corbett issued a statement calling the cuts “devastating.”

“As we look at finalizing this year’s budget, and into the future, Pennsylvania simply cannot afford to replace all the funds lost to federal sequestration. The cost to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers would be devastating,” Corbett said.

The Department of Health is can't determine yet exactly how these cuts will affect the services WIC provides and would not confirm whether the program will have to limit the amount of families it supports or scale back some of its services.

“We are still analyzing the impacts based on the little federal guidance and recommendations received to date to determine how we best move forward,” Tysarczyk said.

She says the Department will continue to work with Governor Corbett while awaiting recommendations from Washington as to how it can best operate its programs with decreased funding.

“Governor Corbett understands that WIC is a vital program to many in Pennsylvania and despite federal cuts, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Governor’s office are working together to develop solutions to try to minimize impacts so that mothers and their children who need these vital services can continue to access them,” Tysarczyk said.

Photo Credit: www.usda.gov

2 Shot, Just Hours Apart on Same Block


A teenager was shot and killed last night on a North Philadelphia street. Less than four hours later another man -- twice the teen's age -- was shot across the street, according to police.

Philadelphia Police first responded to 300 block of Germantown Avenue (at W Indiana Avenue) around 8:50 p.m. Wednesday.

"Upon police arrival they found a 19-year-old male victim suffering from two gunshot wounds to the head. He was laying on the sidewalk unconscious," said Chief Inspector Scott Small.

"We know he was shot from point-blank range."

Small said that police rushed him to the hospital where the teen died less than an hour later. The teen had a semiautomatic gun on him at the time of the shooting.

Then, just 30 minutes after investigators cleared the first shooting scene, police officers were called back to the same block where they found a 38-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound to his chest.

"This 38-year-old victim was shot directly across the street from where the 19-year-old was shot just three and half hours earlier," Small said.

The man was taken to nearby Temple University Hospital in critical condition.

Police did not immediately reveal the identity of either victim. No arrests were made as of Thursday morning.

Investigators were treating the shootings as separate incidents but weren't ruling out that the shootings could be connected.

It's possible the second shooting victim was at the scene to leave mementos at a memorial for the killed teen.

"We're not sure at this time if the 38-year-old was laying stuff animals or with other individuals that had recently put a stuffed animal on the location where the 19-year-old homicide victim was shot," Small said.

Witnesses to the second shooting were taken in for questioning.

Photo Credit: NBC10

Lung Transplant Girl Still on Breathing Tube


The mother of a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl recovering after a double lung transplant says doctors tried to remove her breathing tube but were forced to reinsert it.

Janet Murnaghan said in a statement provided by a spokeswoman that her daughter, Sarah, “could not handle the reduced support” after the tube was removed Wednesday. She called the day “excruciating” and said it was “impossibly painful” watching her daughter struggle to breathe, so the girl was ultimately sedated and re-intubated.

Janet Murnaghan said doctors have assured the family that the day's events don't change Sarah's long-term prospects but just mean “she needs more time to regain her strength.”

Sarah, of Newtown Square, suffers from severe cystic fibrosis. She underwent the operation after a national debate over the organ allocation process of not putting kids on adult lung transplant lists until he or she turns 12.

Her new lungs came from an adult donor, after a judge decided that the under 12 rule could be modified in her case -- a decision that put her on the adult list.

The transplant isn't a cure for cystic fibrosis, but it can extend her life by years.

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia

'House Jackers' Lift Shore Home Out of Harm's Way


Jeremy Patterson's first job in New Jersey was to lift a 2,600-square-foot home up 8 feet in the air.

The house had other plans.

"We've fought with this house because of the way it was constructed," explained Patterson, as he and his 16-year-old son, Greg, sawed through bolts to free the house from its foundation. "It was overconstructed and made for hurricanes. It was made not to come off the ground."

The Point Pleasant home flooded during Superstorm Sandy, but its foundation held fast.
One of the guiding principles for the Jersey Shore as it recovers from Sandy is to rebuild stronger — and higher above sea level.

Additionally, updates to existing FEMA flood maps have expanded the size of flood zones and increased the recommended elevations for many houses. Homeowners whose properties were substantially damaged during Sandy are required to lift their houses to those new heights.

That's increased the demand for the services of "house jackers" or house movers who can elevate these homes.

Patterson is currently moving his family to the Northeast from Louisiana to help his employer, Ducky Johnson House Movers, expand operations in this region.

A game of inches

With the final bolt cut, Patterson manned a bright orange board with pressure gauges and a large lever that controlled the 14 separate jacks that will lift the roughly 75-ton house in unison.

"Ready?" he called out. "Here we go!"

Inside the house, the crew had created a waist-high belt of wooden planks, secured to the home's studs with roughly 1,100 screws. Under that wooden belt, they placed steel beams, which support the jacks that will lift the house.

The jacks pushed against the beams, which pushed against the wooden belt, which lifted the house.

Slowly, the house began to levitate — just a few inches at first. The team paused to cut away anything that still rubbed up against the house as it rose.

"Watch that side," Greg warned another crew member. He's home-schooled so he can work alongside his father.

"When I was a kid, 5 years old, [my dad] would take me to job sites and move houses," said Patterson. "It's a generation thing."

Now in his 30s, Patterson has more than two decades of "jacking" experience.

"I think there's always a spike in demand after a storm, because people get flooded and they don't want to go through that again," he said.

He's scheduled to jack his own house in Slidell, Louisiana, in the coming weeks. It flooded during Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

With disaster comes work

Yet despite the destruction and stress of natural disasters, Patterson sees a silver lining: the economic impact the rebuilding process can have in communities.

"It's truly a stimulus package for the local economy," he said, noting that in addition to his services, repairing the home will require plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other construction workers to put his home back together.

Homeowners Greg Moisan and Jill DeSimone anticipate it will cost between $85,000 and $100,000 to lift the home and resettle it on a new foundation.

As if confirmation of the current level of interest in this type of work, a Canadian reality TV crew has been following Patterson for the last few months, filming his house-jacking escapades.

But with so much to be done, Patterson worries it will draw inexperienced new workers who want a piece of the action.

"Whoever is running that machine should have 10 to 20 years of experience, not a plumber yesterday or a carpenter," he cautioned. "That's the problem with any natural disaster. Everyone becomes a professional of that subject real fast."

He also advises homeowners to ensure the company is fully insured and that they're using a unified jacking system, which synchronizes the jacks.

The house climbed 8 inches before the team stopped to build up towers that surround each jack to support the house. The stacked wooden blocks resemble a giant version of the towers in the kids' game Jenga.

"If you go to grab one of these blocks, they're 80 pounds, solid oak," said Patterson.
While the house rested on the blocks, the jacks were reset to lift the house another 8 inches.

The plan was to lift the house 8 feet.

"Got a little work to do today, huh?" laughed Patterson.

This story was reported through a news coverage partnership between NBC10.com and NewsWorks.org

Photo Credit: Tracey Samuelson | NewsWorks.org

College Loan Rate Hike Looms


The cost of college could be going up for lower income students unless lawmakers act by Monday. NBC10's Tim Furlong reports.

Philly DA: "We Need Safe Schools"


Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is concerned about violence that could occur inside understaffed schools. Williams plans to join workers' fast for schools Thursday.

Photo Credit: NBC10

Doctor Apology Idea Gains Momentum


For eight years, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Vance has pushed for a law that would let a doctor say "I'm sorry" without worrying those words will be used against her in court.

This week, Vance's proposal finally cleared the state Senate.

In years past, the -- historically somewhat more liberal -- state House has approved "doctor apology" legislation. Dr. Richard Schott, a cardiologist and president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said the state Senate has always been the stumbling block.

"It's well understood that the trial lawyers have a lot of control over the legislative process in Pennsylvania, especially in the state Senate," Schott said.

"As physicians. we want to communicate with patients and with their families, and when there are bad outcomes," he said.

Fears of lawsuit abuse are a barrier that keeps doctors and other health workers from expressing their feelings, he said.

Striking a balance

Many said this year's "doctor apology" bill is a compromise.

"It allows doctors to make expressions of sympathy without fear that those expressions will be used as a weapon against them, yet the legislation still preserves the rights of individuals to pursue claims for substandard health care," said Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming.

Statements that suggest negligence can still be used in court but the bill separates those from apologies or words of condolence.

Just a fraction of investigated claims in Pennsylvania go to court because each case has to be reviewed by a knowledgeable outside expert who is familiar with the medical subspecialty, said trial lawyer Jim Ronca, a managing partner with the firm Anapol Schwartz.

"Every surgery, every medical treatment, every drug that is prescribed, has complications and risks that are known," he said.

Negligence, he said, is different.

"That's when a doctor fails to meet the accepted standard of care," Ronca said.

Apology may help prevent suit

Legislation author Vance, R-Cumberland, says mounting evidence shows that an apology -- and explanation -- can lower the chances that a medical mistake turns into a malpractice lawsuit.

"It's not the money. Patients want an apology, good communication and, most importantly, something to fix the system so that no one else suffers the same event," said David Nash, dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health at Thomas Jefferson University.

For a long time, hospital culture encouraged physicians to stay silent and not share feelings or remorse with patients or family members.

Nash says that culture is changing. As an example, he says, Jefferson hosts an annual Interclerkship Day that gives students a chance to talk about medical errors and patient safety.

"We spend a good part of the afternoon working on how to talk to patients when something untoward happens, how to apologize, how to provide information," he said.

This story was reported through a news coverage partnership between NBC10.com and NewsWorks.org

In Case You Missed It: Yesterday's Top Stories


Didn't have a chance to catch up on local news yesterday? Here's what you missed:

Couple Ticketed After Bird Feeders Attract Deer
A New Jersey couple who love to watch birds in their backyard is fighting a ticket from the town after officials say their bird feeders are attracting other wildlife, including deer and squirrels.

25 Officers Catch Duo Having Sex in Park: Police
Anyone who chooses to have sex in a public place likely isn’t scared of having an audience. But the crowd that a North Philadelphia man and a Clifton Heights woman allegedly attracted ended up landing them behind bars.

Man Watches SUV Crash Into His Pool
A woman was determined to keep driving forward overnight and, according to investigators, not a stranger’s yard, some small trees, brush, nor a fence could stop her. Only after dunking her car into a swimming pool did the woman stop.

Shyamalan Not Shooting TV Show in Philly Area
M. Night Shyamalan's new television show apparently won't be coming to the Philadelphia area, where the director has set many of his movies.

Cape May-Lewes Ferry Sells at Huge Loss
The Delaware River & Bay Authority has sold a Cape May-Lewes Ferry that last ran in 2009 for $750,000 after spending millions on the vessel.

No Body Found in Missing Mother's Yard


Police brought in search dogs and dug up part of the yard where Melissa Rodriguez lives. The 30-year-old mother disappeared on April 19.
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