Yesterday the Senate once again defeated corporate efforts to limit jury awards in medical malpractice cases, taking the high priority issue, at least for both President Bush and the majority leader, Senator Bill Frist, off the table for this year.

Defeat Once Again for AMA Lobby 

For the seventh time since 2002, and the fourth time in the past three years that Republicans had tried, and failed, to bring medical malpractice legislation to a vote in the Senate. The Senate on Monday rejected legislation that would have capped awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases at $250,000, resulting in demands that the upper chamber abandon the ill-conceived proposal and focus on issues of greater importance to Americans. In fact, proponents of these two special interest bills could not even muster 50 votes in the Senate. The first would have capped jury awards in all lawsuits against doctors and health care institutions; the second would have applied caps only to cases involving obstetricians.

Three Republicans — Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Michael D. Crapo of Wyoming and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama — joined with Democrats in blocking the measures from consideration. Those who sided with patients had both the facts and the public on their side,’’ said Ken Suggs, President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. "The proponents, like Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), sold out their constituents and patients to pay back friends in the insurance industry who are bankrolling their campaigns. They failed.’’

The legislation would have imposed a one-size-fits-all answer to all medical malpractice claims, limiting non-economic damages to $250,000, regardless of the pain inflicted as the result of medical negligence or the extent of physical damage. Women mistakenly rendered sterile, as well as people who had healthy limbs removed, would be afforded the same amount for pain and suffering as someone with decidedly lesser injuries.  Let’s hope we can return our state system to a more equitable treatment of such disparate claims.

Categories: Consumer Rights, Health Care, New & Changing Laws
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