Medical Malpractice Reform Threatens Patients’ Rights

Florida physicians are backing a new system for handling malpractice claims. If this medical malpractice reform is passed, doctors would be shielded from the court system when they commit negligent acts that harm patients. Instead, a medical review panel would examine claims and a compensation department would determine the proper level of compensation. This system would undoubtedly lower the cost of liability insurance for doctors by sacrificing the rights of injured patients.

The new law is supposedly intended to counter the expense of so-called “defensive medicine.” Some studies have indicated up to one third of all dollars spent on health care go to unnecessary testing and treatment designed to avoid the potential for liability. The supporters of this legislation are using that number to justify instituting a no-fault system based on the workers’ compensation model that would keep doctors out of court, regardless of the damage they have done to the people under their care.

Workers’ compensation law instituted a no-fault system to prevent employers and employees from wasting time and money determining which party was more at-fault for a workplace injury. In medical malpractice claims, that is not an issue. Patients are never at fault for their doctors’ failure to adhere to accepted medical practices. Patients are never the cause of an incorrect prescription, surgical error, or other medical mistake that causes them harm. The use of a no-fault system does nothing except shield them from liability for their mistakes.

This legislation has the potential to harm countless patients and leave many families without the compensation they need and deserve. While the system may not be perfect, this reform is designed to save money for doctors and their insurance companies at the expense of injured patients. Injured patients must have access to the courts and the right to present their claims to an impartial jury to ensure that their rights are protected. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “93 Percent of Florida Physicians Support Legislation to Replace Current Medical Malpractice System” 19 January 2012