A Rhode Island Hospital has been fined for the 3rd instance this year of a doctor performing brain surgery in the wrong side of the patient’s head. Last Friday, a chief resident started operating on the wrong side of an 82-year-old patient. In August, a similar error caused the patient’s death.
These types of issues are not limited to Rhode Island as this issue is similar to battles we often face at Rice & Bloomfield. What is most frightening is that in Los Angeles, as in all of California, the most that could be recovered from litigation of this type of error is $250,000. From that amount must be paid litigation costs and attorneys fees. Because of that problem, many victims of medical malpractice often cannot find an attorney who will accept there case.
Although we are here to help people who have been injured, we must also make a living. We cannot continue to operate when faced with these type of limitations. This has become a common problem faced by injured patients throughout the state.
Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has frequently trumpeted Texas and California as models for providing access to health, citing an example of a doctor who moved from Maine to Texas and had his malpractice insurance premium reduced from $11,300 to $5,031. There is no evidence to tie the premium difference to the medical malpractice cap. Moreover, I find it hard to believe a doctor moved to Texas to save $5,000 per year. That amount would not even cover his moving costs.
Mitt Romney has joined in the insurance industry created hysteria about insurance premiums. He talks about the burden imposed by lottery-sized awards. However, he ignores the incredible burden put on a family who loses a loved one due to a doctor’s neglect. Democratic hopeful John Edwards, a former trial lawyer, explains that the cap has little effect on premiums (less than 1%).
We feel that most doctors can certainly afford $11,000, instead of $5,000 to make sure that anyone they hurt is taken care of. I expect most doctors would prefer to make sure people hurt by medical errors are provided for. It is the insurance companies that do not want to take care of people.