Archives: February 2014

February 2014 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 9, Issue 2 February 2014 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Kentucky Takes Quick Steps to Curb Medical Lawsuit Abuse Wisconsin Acts to Protect Provider Apologies Efforts to Raise Reasonable Liability Limits Looms Large in CA Legislative Update: Standard of Care Kentucky Takes Quick Steps to Curb Medical Lawsuit Abuse This legislative session, the Kentucky Legislature won’t be dancing around medical liability reform, and has already taken quick steps to move forward with legislation that supporters say will curb medical lawsuit abuse while creating an efficient and fair process for deserving patients. A measure passed earlier this month by the state Senate would create three-member expert panels to review evidence in cases before people could take claims to court, with each side selecting one member and the two experts selecting the third expert to sit on the panel. The panel would review initial liability claims against health care providers before they could be pursued in court, reducing meritless claims and ensuring that legitimate cases are handled efficiently. The bill is strongly supported by the state’s Chamber of Commerce, with Chamber President Dave Adkisson testifying to a Senate committee that healthcare businesses in Kentucky can no longer ignore or…

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New Bill Brings Medical Malpractice Fight to the Legislature

SACRAMENTO–Seeking to avert a costly initiative battle, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has introduced a bill to serve as a vehicle for a legislative compromise on California’s medical malpractice law. The measure is brief: just one sentence stating the Legislature’s intention to “bring interested parties together to develop a legislative solution to issues surrounding medical malpractice injury compensation.” But the bill–which arrived last Friday, the final day new legislation could be introduced this session–marks the state Senate leader’s last-ditch effort to stave off an ugly looming initiative battle. Trial lawyers and consumer groups are pushing a measure that would raise the cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractices cases from $250,000 to approximately $1.1 million. It would also require doctors to be drug tested and to check a statewide database when prescribing certain medications to clamp down on prescription drug abuse. The initiative’s backers must turn in signed petitions by March 24 in order to qualify for the November ballot. They’re anticipated to hold off from submitting their signatures until the deadline, giving the Legislature some time to tackle the issue. “Patient safety is a serious problem,” said Eric Bailey, communications director of the Consumer…

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Kentucky Senate Passes Bill Creating Medical Malpractice Panels

A panel of medical experts would review proposed medical malpractice claims against health care providers before they could be pursued in court under a bill the Kentucky Senate passed this week. The party-line vote in the Republican-led Senate followed a contentious debate on an issue that has drawn powerful interest groups on both sides. The measure now goes to the Democratic-run House, where it faces a much tougher challenge. Sen. Julie Denton, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it is meant to speed up the review process and eliminate meritless medical malpractice suits that she claimed are forcing medical providers out of the state. “This bill is about ensuring that we have access to the best health-care providers possible in our commonwealth,” the Louisville Republican said. “And we are going to lose them, or we are not going to be able to attract them, if we don’t address this issue.” Democratic Sen. Ray Jones II of Pikeville countered that inserting medical review panels into the medical malpractice process would hurt “the weakest, most vulnerable people in our society.” “This is a huge impediment to average folks to access the courts,” he said. The bill’s supporters insisted it would not block people…

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Medical Malpractice Review Panel Bill Passes Kentucky Senate

FRANKFORT, KY. — A bill to set up review panels in medical malpractice cases passed the Senate on Wednesday after more than an hour of debate on a 23-13 party-line vote. That vote came hours after sponsor Chairwoman Julie Denton’s Health and Welfare Committee voted 7-4 to re-approve the Louisville Republican’s Senate Bill 119. The bill would require that medical malpractice complaints be taken to a panel of three experts — which would say whether proper standards for care were met — before someone could take a claim to court. A change to the bill approved in committee would make the review panel’s finding inadmissible in court if new substantial evidence were discovered after that report. Democrats said the panels unduly restrict access to the courts for victims of medical malpractice. Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville who led the opposition, said the bill is “pandering” to businesses. Denton and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the panels are not an impediment to legitimate cases of malpractice. The bill had passed Denton’s committee once before, but was sent back by Senate leadership after Jones, an attorney, filed a host of amendments to change the bill. The amendments were all ruled out of…

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‘I’m Sorry’ Bill Gets Assembly Approval (UPDATE)

The state Assembly approved on a voice vote Tuesday on a bill that would let doctors and other medical providers apologize or express fault for botched medical procedures without having to worry their words would be used against them in court. Similar “I’m sorry” bills have gone before the Legislature several times in the past few years, only to meet with opposition from critics who contend that legal immunity should not be extended to those who admit fault, liability or responsibility for a medical mishap. The author of the current version, Erik Severson, a Republican from Star Prairie and a doctor, said the proposal is meant to ensure medical providers can have “honest conversations” with patients when things go awry. “If something happened in a surgery or something happened in the ER, or a patient just dies of natural causes, people want to have a true, honest conversation,” Severson said, “instead of having a guarded conversation where their words right now might be used to say, ‘You are guilty of malfeasance or malpractice in this case.’” Assembly Democrats proposed an amendment that would only prevent doctors and other medical providers from being held liable for statements of apology, sympathy and…

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Voters May Decide Medical Malpractice Cap

Lawyers and consumer groups are getting signatures for a ballot measure to increase 1975’s pain and suffering limit of $250,000. Doctors and insurers have already raised $33 million to fight it. SACRAMENTO — A protracted political battle over California’s medical malpractice law may be coming to a new front: the voting booth. For decades, trial lawyers and consumer groups have railed against limits on certain damages in malpractice cases, arguing that such restrictions deny victims fair compensation for grisly medical mistakes. Insurance companies, doctors and other healthcare providers have been equally vigorous in defending the law, saying it is crucial to controlling costs and maintaining the availability of care. Now, the lawyers’ side has proposed a ballot initiative that would raise the limits on malpractice awards for pain and suffering. The measure would appear on the fall ballot, but both camps are already amassing war chests and firing opening shots in what would certainly be a bruising and costly fight. “Visions of dollars signs are dancing in the heads of political consultants up and down the state,” said Bruce Cain, professor of political science at Stanford University. “This is a big-time bonanza for them.” If the measure makes the ballot,…

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