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Medical Malpractice Cap Hurts 'Most Vulnerable in Our Country'

A bill in Congress could cap compensation for victims of medical error, which is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. (wp paarz/Flickr)
A bill in Congress could cap compensation for victims of medical error, which is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. (wp paarz/Flickr)
May 8, 2017

SEATTLE – Congress is considering a bill that could leave patients harmed by medical malpractice with big bills still left to pay, even after their day in court.

Known as the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, the bill would cap non-economic damages for victims of medical malpractice at $250,000.

Although that may seem like a lot of money, patients can end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills for the rest of their lives for an operation gone wrong or misdiagnosis.

The bill would even cap damages for seniors abused in nursing homes.

"What's really sad and disturbing is that they seem to be especially targeting what I would call the most vulnerable individuals that we have in our country, including folks in nursing homes who are in need of medical care and treatment," says Nic Bacetich, president of Washington State Association for Justice

The House could vote on this bill as soon as this week.

Washington state's Supreme Court ruled caps on damages unconstitutional in 1989. Proponents of the bill say it will decrease the burden of excess liability on the health care system.

However, Bacetich worries the bill will simply mean large corporations such as insurance companies and hospitals pay less when a patient is injured, leaving that patient with enormous medical bills.

He says the bill could in essence restrict a person's access to justice because even if a jury decides a victim deserves more compensation that this bill allows, the victim would be out of luck.

"I think it just really goes and cuts to the core issue as to whether or not we want a system that we've had for 200 years plus and allowing our fellow citizens to consider all the evidence on both sides and to come to a reasonable determination in terms of damages," he stresses.

Medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.




Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA