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Negative Affects of Proposed Medical Malpractice Reform

Recently there has been a renewed push for medical malpractice reform - both at the state and federal level - in an attempt to save the struggling health care system.   However, medical malpractice reform measures alone will fail to help the healthcare system and will only hurt patients by facilitating a culture that lacks accountability.

Medical malpractice is a legal cause of action that can be brought when a healthcare provider fails to meet their obligation to provide adequate and appropriate medical treatment. When a healthcare provider fails to provide the appropriate treatment, and the patient suffers injury as a result, the healthcare provider may be held liable for medical costs, non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss earning potential) and other expenses that the victim has incurred.

Most recently, the North Carolina Senate approved a tort reform bill that would cap non-economic damages at $500,000 and require gross negligence, rather than ordinary negligence, in order to sustain a medical malpractice claim against emergency room doctors.

The reforms could have devastating and unintended effects, however, and could potentially violate state law.  For instance, some tort reform measures seek to eliminate the plaintiff’s right to a jury trial – a right that is guaranteed under most state constitutions.   Limits on damages, such as North Carolina’s proposed cap on non-economic damages, fail to account for lost earning potential for measurable injuries like paralysis, brain damage or death.

Contrary to the tort reformers’ beliefs, the vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits are not frivolous.  In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health analyzing more than 1,400 medical malpractice claims concluded that the majority of medical malpractice claims were meritorious and involved “injuries due to error,” with 80% involving death or serious injury.  Moreover, medical malpractice claims are not the cause of rising health care costs, nor are they the reason for doctors’ increased insurance rates increase.

Steinberg, Goodman, & Kalish  ( is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299.

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