Missouri Supreme Court examines implications of expanding statute of limitations

A pending case in Missouri is putting medical liability in legal limbo, as the state’s Supreme Court is grappling with a crucial decision on the time limits for patients filing claims against physicians.

A recent appellate court ruling has the potential to create a loophole in the state’s strict two-year statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits and open up avenues for medical lawsuit abuse.

At the heart of the matter is the “continuous-course-of-treatment” doctrine, allowing patients to file claims beyond the statutory limit if they continue to receive care for an injury caused by medical negligence. The catch? In the case in question, the patient was no longer being treated by the physician in question, raising concerns about unintended consequences and increased healthcare costs if the doctrine is applied to this case.

The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, along with the Missouri State Medical Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are urging the state’s highest court to overturn the appellate decision.

“Extending Missouri’s continuous-course-of-treatment doctrine whenever a patient subjectively decides he or she is in a physician-patient relationship would create a large, unintended loophole in the statute of limitations,” the brief states. “Rather than dismiss untimely claims, a relaxed application of the doctrine would result in unnecessary, expensive trials that would raise the cost of health care for Missouri residents.”

The outcome could set a problematic precedent in Missouri, allowing otherwise time-expired claims to be filed and drive up health care costs for patients and physicians. To read more about the impact on the state’s legal landscape, click here.

HCLA letter to Congress urges balance in evaluating medical AI tools

As AI opens up opportunities for advancements in health care delivery, the HCLA recently penned a letter to Congress to lay out its views on regulations around the use of clinical algorithms.

The HCLA communicated that it supports a balanced approach to efforts to address bias in clinical algorithms, as the Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) develops a Proposed Rule regarding Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities.

“We support the principles behind OCR’s effort to address potential bias stemming from the use of clinical algorithms but adamantly oppose the use of threatened liability targeting health professionals as the means for achieving that goal,” the letter states.

The HCLA takes the opportunity to emphasize to Congressional leaders the importance of patient safety and the need to eliminate systemic issues affecting the quality of care. However, the coalition strongly opposes the proposed rule’s approach of using threatened liability against health professionals as a means to achieve this goal.

The proposed rule allows for an unlimited period of potential liability, even for biases that may not be uncovered for years. This could hinder technological advancements in health care for the very populations the rule aims to assist.

As discussions on the proposed rule continue, the HCLA looks forward to assisting in finding solutions that balance the need for caution with the imperative to advance health care improvements. To read the letter in full, click here.

Risky business: Physicians reflect on prevalence of medical liability cases

A recently released Medscape medical liability report focuses on key findings from a recent physician survey, highlighting the current risks faced by practitioners across the U.S.

The report analyzed responses from over 3,000 physicians representing 29 specialties, all focused on their feelings and sentiments regarding the current medical liability climate.

Some key findings from this year’s study:

  • 90 percent of general surgeons reported being named as a sole or co-defendant in a medical liability lawsuit.
  • 72 percent of all physician respondents in Louisiana reported being named as a sole or co-defendant in a medical liability lawsuit.
  • 41 percent of cases lasted between one to two years; but nine percent of respondents indicated they experienced a lawsuit lasting over five years.
  • Despite the frequency and length of claims, 41 percent of cases against a physician were dismissed, and physicians were only found guilty of medical negligence only 12 percent of the time.

“Surgeons are at the top of the list because of the complexity of what they do,” says Bill Burns, vice president of research for the Medical Professional Liability Association, a trade association for medical liability insurers and HCLA member. “That’s typically why insurance premiums are higher for surgeons, since companies price doctors from highest-risk to lowest-risk.”

The report included additional commentary from physicians on the merit of claims, how past claims’ experiences lead to the practice of defensive medicine, and what states could do to limit medical lawsuit abuse. Click here to read the visual report, in full.