By: Cami McEvers
It’s called the “Put Patients First Reform Package,” but many patients say the legislation would actually put them last.
Introduced by Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, to establish “the exercise of medical judgment” as a valid defense in medical malpractice cases, defined as a “reasonable and good-faith belief that the person’s conduct is both well founded in medicine and in the best interests of the patient.” This would be a “question of law” for the court to decide. It is the senate insurance committee that is considering the bill and not the health panel. Reportedly the chair of the health committee wanted to head in a different direction – one that Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) did not like.
On July 18, 2012 hundreds of concerned people crowded the Boji Building at the Senate Insurance Committee hearing to make sure doctors are held accountable. The medical malpractice bill is being championed by the Michigan State Medical Society, which maintains that a doctor would still be expected to meet standards of care, explaining that such reform measures are necessary to keep the state attractive for doctors. The estimated 300 protestors on the streets and at the Hearing in Lansing disagreed, calling it an immunity bill for bad physicians.
The hearing came only days after the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen issued a report that found payments for medical malpractice are declining, indicating that malpractice expenses are a much smaller portion of healthcare costs in the U.S. than advocates for tort reform suggest. The Public Citizen report also outlined how stringent malpractice reform measures established over the past ten years have failed to save states money or offer better healthcare for the state’s residents.
“One of the things we’d like is to get rid of non-meritorious law suits,” said Dr. Rose Ramirez.
The Senate Insurance Committee is considering legislation that would, for the first time, grant immunity to doctors who may have made a mistake but believed they were doing the right thing at the time.
“It’s not a test of conduct like you would have with engineers, airline pilots, you, me or anyone else; it’s a belief, what’s in your mind? How can you prove that? You can’t; it’s defacto immunity,” said Norman Tucker, a medical malpractice attorney.
Tucker said other bills being proposed will effectively increase litigation costs and decrease the recovery someone can get; thereby making filing a claim or defending a claim very difficult. Many people fear repeat offender-doctors will be able to continue practicing.
Also protested was Senate Bill 1115, which would establish a malpractice cap capable of overriding a jury decision about what extent of compensation victims of medical errors deserve. Opponents of the proposed legislation say that, when combined with other bills that make up the reform package, it’s difficult to determine what part of the law puts “patients first.”
The Senate Insurance Committee is expected to re-convence in August.
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