Regarding the June 23 Another Voice, “Medical malpractice needs more thoughtful reform,” legislators need to act carefully in addressing laws affecting medical malpractice lawsuits. Legislative reforms must bring legitimate redress where it is needed; however, care must be taken to insure that new legislation does not decrease access to the best care in the world.
Regressive measures that increase already exorbitant premium rates may accelerate the departure of New York’s physicians to other states, thus aggravating the existing physician access problems across many regions of the state.
Proposals that alter the current law governing the statute of limitations would create one of the longest time periods in the country to bring lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. Most states that delay the running out of their statute of limitation until the discovery of medical negligence balance the cost impact by providing reasonable limitations on awards.
New York has no such limitations on medical liability awards. New York State is already universally recognized to have one of the most hostile medical practice climates in the United States, having by far and away the highest total and per capita medical liability payouts in the country. Against this backdrop, legislation to increase lawsuits without addressing these exorbitant costs would not only make these problems worse, but also further erode our patients’ access to care.
We urge the Legislature to enact comprehensive liability reform that includes a meaningful cap on liability awards.
Joseph Maldonado, MD, MBA
President, Medical Society of the State of New York