Kentucky acts to stop abuse of medical liability system

A bill signed into law in Kentucky aims to get ahead of aggressive abuses of the medical liability system, sidestepping issues experienced in other states that threaten access to care.

The bill, HB 159, establishes that health care providers are immune from criminal liability for harm arising from a health services-related act or omission, while maintaining avenues for resolution of medical liability claims in civil court.

Such legislation became necessary following a high-profile prosecution of a nurse in Tennessee who reported a medical error and was subsequently charged with reckless homicide.

“Our nurses should not be held criminally liable for a mere mistake, and the legal system already has ample means available to address any true negligence,” said Nancy Galvagni, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Kentucky Hospital Association.

HB 159 encourages transparent reporting by health care professionals, maintaining that punitive measures such as criminal charges can and will discourage reporting – putting patients at higher risk.

Advocacy efforts by the Kentucky Nurses Association in support of the bill highlighted the existing shortage of nurses in the state and the urgent need to stem future losses of skilled providers.

To read more about how Kentucky has become the first state to decriminalize medical errors, click here.


State medical board group offers poor prescription on use of AI

The Federation of State Medical Boards weighed in on the use of artificial intelligence in provider licensing, highlighting the continued need for a comprehensive approach to AI adoption that offers protections for patients and physicians.

Their recent report, Navigating the Responsible and Ethical Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into Clinical Practice, recommended that doctors be held responsible for their use of artificial intelligence and accountable for any harm the technology causes. “Once a physician chooses to use AI, they accept responsibility for responding appropriately to the AI’s recommendations,” the report said.

This approach differs somewhat from that of the American Medical Association (AMA),  which stresses the importance of holding AI developers responsible for the quality of their product. While noting that physicians must still be held accountable for maintaining the standard of care, as they currently are, the AMA says that putting all of the burden for AI liability on health care professionals will ultimately inhibit the use of potentially patient safety-improving technologies.

The Federation report also recommended that physicians be held responsible for biases which AI could introduce into patient care, contradicting the views of numerous health care organizations that have lobbied the Biden Administration on this issue. While stating that physicians should be held accountable for perpetuating known biases, these groups have expressed the view that the technology community bears responsibility for eliminating bias within the tools it develops. 

Click here to read more about adoption of augmented intelligence in health care and how it must be balanced with physician protections.

Iowa C-section rates indicate liability concerns

As the prevalence of C-sections increase in proportion to overall births in the U.S., many health care observers are beginning to see the procedure as a form of defensive medicine.

In Iowa, the share of C-sections has been ticking up over time, rising to over 30% in recent years. National C-section rates have also increased to more than 32% – more than double what the World Health Organization deems as ideal.

This increase comes as repeat C-sections are now the norm.

While Axios reports that most individuals can have a successful vaginal birth after a Cesarean section (VBAC), in Iowa “it’s especially difficult to find a provider who will offer that option,” says Rachel Bruns, the International Cesarean Awareness Network’s local chapter leader.

Last year, MercyOne of Des Moines ended the only hospital-based midwifery program that offered VBAC.

Bruns highlights that this shift is led by liability concerns and is leading to “worse patient outcomes.”

To read more insights into the link between liability concerns and an increase in C-section rates in both Iowa and the U.S., click here.