A recent post at Yahoo Voices offered a comprehensive and helpful critique of the proposed federal legislation that our Illinois brain injury lawyers have spent considerable time criticizing-House Resolution 5. The bill passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives in late March. Among other things the law would cap all pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases at $250,000, create arbitrary rules for legal arrangements between lawyers and malpractice victims, and enact restrictions on consumer’s ability to hold drug companies and medical device manufacturers responsible for their conduct.
As with virtually all tort reform measures, H.R. 5 is simply an effort to tilt the legal scale even more in favor of insurance companies, drug companies, and large healthcare conglomerates.
The article explains how proponents of the bill argue that the measure is needed because the current system of handing medical malpractice cases-which can include Illinois brain injury cases-is too costly and ineffective. Bizarrely, proponents also claim that the measure will help improve patient safety.
Of course, one needed look too hard to realize that these supposed motivations behind the measure are illusory. The bill’s chief sponsor, Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey has suggested that the bill will ensure that those hurt by medical errors receive fair and adequate compensation. Yet, the main thrust of the bill is to arbitrarily limit the amount that all those hurt can receive. No longer would juries be able to decide these issues based on the specifics of each case.
The Congressman has argued that the bill would also “reduce uncertainty” in amount of damages for injured individuals. However, the only situation where this is true is where juries deem the damages suffered to exceed the cap amount. In that way, the only ones to benefit from limiting this “uncertainty” are insurance companies who will be guaranteed to not have to provide full compensation for harms by those in the most serious situations.
Our Chicago brain injury lawyers appreciate that at the end of the day, what matters most of all is patient safety. In a rush to cater to the needs of powerful interest groups, many legislators fail to consider the actual long-term effect of this dangerous legislation. In some ways medical errors have reached epidemic proportions. Twelve years ago in the oft-cited study “To Err is Human” a doctor from the Institute of Medicine explained that the health care industry was “a decade or more behind other high-risk industries in its attention to ensuring basic safety.”
What has changed in those twelve years? Almost nothing.
A 2010 study that attempted to quantify the results of the patient safety movement over the previous decade found “little evidence that the rate of harm had decreased substantially over a six year period ending in December 2007.” In other words, hundreds of thousands of patients continue to be killed and severely injured every year because of errors that are entirely preventable.
Beyond the judicial fairness issue, it is inconceivable that providing medical providers more legal immunity and less incentive to fix the problem will result in better patient safety. More lives may very well be lost as a result of this type of legislation.
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