Archives: December 2014

December 2014 Newsletter

  Protect Patients Now Volume 9, Issue 12 December 2014 Newsletter E-Newsletter     Special points of interest: Continuing Education: Surgeons Stay Informed on State of Medical Liability System Looking Forward on Reform Efforts Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season Continuing Education: Surgeons Stay Informed on State of Medical Liability System A new report by the American College of Surgeons keeps physicians up-to-date on the history and current state of the medical liability system and encourages education on policy issues that affect time in the operating room. While traditional reforms (including reasonable limits on non-economic damages, periodic payments of damages, and statutes of limitations) are well-known and understood, surgeons are uncertain about how alternative solutions could affect their patients and their practice. Now, facing a difficult legislative environment at the federal level, proponents of making changes to our broken medical liability system have begun to explore and rationalize non-traditional reforms that include protecting physicians who follow accepted guidelines of practice, arbitration or mediation, and communication and resolution programs. Key to the argument in favor of reform is a need for initiatives to incorporate patient safety. “The current toxic medical liability climate, however, promotes the exact opposite—it discourages open discussion…

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California’s Proposition 46 and the Uncertain Future of Medical Malpractice Liability Reform

On November 4, 2014, Californians voted against Proposition 46, an unprecedented statewide ballot initiative that would have, among other things, raised the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages to $1.1 million and indexed it to the rate of inflation in future years. The margin was significant — 67 percent voted against it. For nearly 40 years, noneconomic damages, which entail payments to patients for pain and suffering resulting from medical malpractice (as opposed to economic damages such as lost wages and medical costs), have been at the forefront of debates over the U.S. medical liability system. Currently, 22 states have caps on noneconomic damages of varying sizes in place. If it had passed, the ballot initiative would have raised the cap on noneconomic damages in California from among the most restrictive to the least restrictive among all states with caps. Opponents of Proposition 46, and supporters of malpractice reform more generally, argued that raising the noneconomic damages cap would have increased malpractice awards and subsequently malpractice premiums, which would be passed on to patients and insurers as higher costs. Proponents countered that the $250,000 cap is outdated and that liability is necessary to compensate patients and provide physicians with incentives to…

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