Tennessee Legislation Makes Emergency Rooms Accountability-Free
A bill introduced in the Tennessee legislature specifically allows hospitals and doctors to provide negligent medical care in Tennessee emergency rooms. Unless a patient could prove gross negligence, a standard just short of criminal behavior, there would be no accountability or protection. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson, both from College Grove.
“For example, if you go to the ER with chest pains and the doctor carelessly misdiagnoses you with bronchitis and you go home and have a massive heart attack and die, under the proposed legislation there is no recourse for this kind of sloppiness,” stated Keith Williams, President, Tennessee Association for Justice. “In effect, a doctor would have no responsibility for careless errors that could ultimately cost you your life.”
The current standard for medical negligence already affords protections to ER doctors. ER doctors are protected as long as they deliver care consistent with standards set by their peers—other ER doctors. Only if they fail to meet those standards and harm a patient will they rightfully be held accountable under the present law.
The immunity goes one step further and covers doctors in surgery and the OB unit if the patient is admitted through the ER. This means a patient who goes to the ER will have very little, if any protection from negligence during their entire hospital stay.
This legislation has an unfair impact on pregnant women, children and low-income families since they are more likely to use the ER. Kids in sports go to the ER for injuries, pregnant women often go to the ER whey they are in labor, and the elderly frequently rely on the ER for respiratory illnesses. These vulnerable citizens would be without any protection when seeking needed medical care.
HB 174/SB 360 also places a financial burden on the taxpayers. If recipients of TennCare, Medicare and the uninsured are harmed due to carelessness in the ER, Tennesseans will end up paying the bill for a person’s medical care and treatment resulting from the doctor’s careless error. Medical errors cost the Nation approximately $37.6 billion per year, and this legislation would only add to that cost.
“Should a law be passed allowing ER doctors to commit negligent acts on patients in Tennessee? That’s exactly what this bill does.” said Williams. “With 98,000 people dying each year from medical errors, clearly the answer is NO. The focus should be on improving the quality of care – not on lobbyists seeking to pass a license to harm patients.”