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What do you all think of this?

Posted by Sharon W on 3/14/03 at 08:36 (112921)

What do you all think of this move to limit (malpractice) pain and suffering limits?

Personally, I'm concerned about the idea of setting a fixed limit which would not be modified to keep up with the cost of living. After all, 25 years ago you could buy a nice house almost anywhere in the US, for 50,000. Now, it's more like 250,000, and of course in some areas of the country it would be more than that!

But I do feel that some of the extreme awards won in malpractice suits are way over the top, and I think it's appropriate to put some kind of cap on them. The cost of malpractice insurance is affecting the cost of health care for everyone. In some cases it is even forcing medical clinics out of business or resulting in good doctors abandoning medicine entirely (especially those in specialities at high risk for malpractice suits, such as OB/Gyn).

Check out this AP story by Janelle Carter on the bill that the US house just passed, below (and excerpts follow):

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=534&e=3&cid=534&u=/ap/20030314/ap_on_he_me/congress_malpractice

'The House on Thursday passed, 229-196, a bill that would cap noneconomic damages, such as compensation for loss of a limb or sight, at $250,000. The bill would not limit compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses and other economic damages.'

'States still could pass legislation to exceed the bill's cap, but would have to have some sort of limit in place.'

'Already, some Republicans in the Senate, such as Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have expressed reservations about the House cap.
Thursday, House Republicans seemed to concede they would have to negotiate the limitations.'

'President Bush, who long has pushed for such limits, lauded the House action.'

'Today's House vote is an important step toward creating a liability system that fairly compensates those who are truly harmed, punishes egregious misconduct without driving good doctors out of medicine and improves access to quality, affordable health care by reducing health care costs,' Bush said in a statement.'

'The lawyers argue they are being made into bogeymen, and the caps won't reduce insurance rates but will leave Americans who are damaged by medical mistakes unable to recoup their full losses.'

'The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, says 18 states are in a crisis because of the liability problem. Doctors have taken to protests and rallies to show their displeasure.'

'In addition to the cap on noneconomic damages, punitive damages those that punish a physician for serious mistakes would be limited to twice the amount of economic damages awarded or $250,000, whichever is greater.
The legislation also would restrict patients' ability to file lawsuits over old cases and set limits on lawyers' fees. The bill would affect not just doctors but also hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers.'
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Re: What do you all think of this?

marie on 3/14/03 at 09:19 (112927)

I tend to agree with you Sharon.

Re: Marie - reasonable limit?

Sharon W on 3/14/03 at 12:41 (112970)

Marie,

What do you think would be a reasonable limit on the 'pain and suffering' awards?

Sharon

Re: Marie - reasonable limit?

marie on 3/14/03 at 12:52 (112972)

I think $250,000. is reaonable in most cases but if there is permanent damage and the person can no longer work then the award should be higher. I think they should have a 6 step award system starting with a range of awards, lower than $250,000. and going up higher than that figure. Having just one minimum award seems vague. I don't like lawsuits but sometimes they are necessary. I feel very sorry for our doctors who are forced to practice defensive medicine.

Re: Marie - reasonable limit?

Sharon W on 3/14/03 at 13:52 (112976)

Of course, with the bill that the house passed it is not 250,000 and that is all a person could get. A person injured by malpractice could also get PUNITIVE damages up to 250,000(like if the doctor takes out the wrong lung, or something like that) and an unlimited amount of money for medical bills, lost wages, etc.

The thing that isn't clear to me is this: would the 250,000 limit for pain and suffering be the amount a person could be awarded from ALL parties named in the suit, or could the person get that amount from EACH person or entity (hospital, nursing home, etc) named in the suit?

I know from working in a hospital that doctors are NOT the only ones who live in fear of a malpractice suit (although I was lucky enough never to be involved with one personally). Almost any type of hospital personnel can be held liable. In fact, I'm told it is standard practice with some of these suits to name just about anyone and everyone involved with the patient's care. Even though she's insured for malpractice, if she doesn't have a high enough coverage limit, a health care worker can lose her home, her children's college money, everything.

Doctors are (understandably) afraid to take risks, sometimes to the patient's detrement. They are (in many ways) the most vulnerable in these suits, because they are the primary decision-makers.

A nurse knows she might be held liable for huge sums in a malpractice suit just because she followed a doctor's orders, if the jury (with the benefit of hindsight but usually without any particular medical expertise) decides that she should have refused to give the patient that particular medication. (Small wonder that there is a nursing shortage, especially in hospitals!)

I am not saying that noone in health care ever makes a mistake -- medical personnel are human like everyone else -- but I do think that's a rather big risk to take, especially if you are only earning 15,000 to 60,000 per year.

Oops, sorry to get so long-winded! I'm off to pick up one of my daughters for her spring break, so, carry on...

Sharon

Re: Marie - reasonable limit?

marie on 3/14/03 at 14:18 (112979)

Sharon,
I'll have to take a closer look at it. You have a very good question. Malpractice suits are killing the medical and healthcare industry. Teachers have to have lawsuit insurance as well. It has really become a sue you world. I guess the insurance companys are making out ok. Crazy.