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“Patient Safety” Bills

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2012 | In The Courts/Legislation

Recently a series of sweeping proposed laws have been introduced in the Michigan Senate and Michigan House that are supposed to “reform” the law in Michigan regarding medical malpractice cases.  The stated purpose of these of these bills is to “protect” patients and keep doctors from leaving the state.

A review of the bills quickly reveals they have nothing to do with protecting patients.  Instead they will make it virtually impossible for a patient injured or killed by a doctor’s wrongdoing to bring a case in Michigan.

Some key provisions in these bills would:

Bar a patient’s case and create immunity so long as the doctor/healthcare provider “exercised their judgment” in providing care.

  • Bar a patient’s case and create complete immunity unless the patient could prove the doctor was “grossly negligent” for care provided in the emergency room or that followed the emergency room in surgery, obstetrics and other care
  • Further reduce damages – already limited and capped -particularly for those with most severe, permanent injuries

It is hard to imagine how preventing cases unless a doctor was grossly negligent will protect patients.  Instead it would make medical care far more dangerous.  Saying the patient does not have a case because the doctor “exercised his judgment” would be like a driver running a red light and killing someone but not being held accountable because they claimed they exercised their judgment and thought the light was green.  Or limiting a patient’s right to recover damages even more than they already are.

Most citizens are completely unaware that current law in Michigan limits (caps) damages at $424,000 in most cases.  Currently jurors are not even allowed to be told this when cases go to trial.  These protections, already in place, have resulted in an 80% drop in the number of malpractice cases and a nearly equal drop in the amount paid out in settlement of malpractice claims.  Far from being awash in medical malpractice lawsuits, in 2010, there were a paltry 808 medical malpractice cases filed in Michigan a 47% drop since 2002.  That compares with 11,068 total negligence cases, and 27,732 general civil filings such as business or commercial contract cases.

In contrast to the often heard complaints of a litigation lottery where people win millions of dollars in frivolous claims, the truth is sobering.  As of 2010 Michigan, ranked 43rd out of 50 or 7th from the bottom of the country in terms of the average amount paid in resolving a medical malpractice claim.  ($181,198 in Michigan vs $334,559 national average).

Yet these proposed bills go even further and would essentially eliminate a patient’s right to recourse supposedly in the name of “putting patient’s first.”

Contrary to the sponsor’s claim that Michigan is losing physicians, the State has seen a steady increase in the number of doctors year after year after year.

Medical errors are currently responsible for over a million needless injuries and deaths each year. With no accountability, those numbers will only increase in Michigan.  Instead of negligent doctors and hospitals being held accountable for their misconduct, the costs of caring for those catastrophically injured or killed would be forced on employers and taxpayers in the form of more costly health insurance premiums and increased costs to Medicaid and Medicare.

These proposals are bad law and very dishonest as written. They have nothing to do with protecting patients in Michigan. 

We urge voters to contact their State Legislators by phone or email

and ask them to OPPOSE SB1110, 1115, 1116, 1117, and 1118 and HB 5669, 5770, 5771 and 5672

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