House Bill 1215 is currently pending in congress. The bill has been shadowed by hundreds of more pending bills, and now it’s time to shed some light on it. If passed, house Bill 1215 essentially will create immaculate obstacles for people who seek to hold health care professionals accountable for medical negligence, also known as medical malpractice. Although many states have already imposed certain limits on what damages can be sought, the bill goes beyond these laws and will set forth draconian limits on the lawsuits filed by victims all over the country.
Misleadingly, albeit cleverly, named Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, would force a maximum limit of $250,000 for non-economic damages such as emotional anguish, stress, or pain and suffering. Supporters of the claim say these limits will prevent frivolous lawsuits. Those against the bill say it affects malpractice victims whose damages exceed the limits; unfortunately these often include those who have suffered the most. Furthermore, the cap could be devastating for children, women, elderly, and people with a disability.
House Bill 1215 also includes a statute of limitations for lawsuits involving medical malpractice. If passed, most patients will have one year from the time of discovery to file a suit. Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, says “almost no state has a statute of limitations that severe.” During this year period, victims will also have to overcome numerous hurdles including getting an affidavit from expert witnesses who meet very strict requirements. In other words, the bill clearly states that only a doctor practicing or teaching in the same state or neighboring state can act as an expert witness. The court will be able to waive this if witnesses would “otherwise not be available.”
Under a section which is ironically titled “Maximizing Patient Recovery”, the bill lays out the limits which lawyers can collect for their clients. These limits, along with the requirements for an expert witness, make it nearly financially impossible to take on these cases. Thus, filing for medical malpractice will be close to impossible.
Severely Injured Patients Are the Ones Who Will Lose
In 2011, a Milwaukee emergency room treated a woman, Ascaris Mayo, for abdominal pain and a high fever. An assistant to the doctor recorded an infection as a potential diagnosis, but failed to inform Mayo about this possibility. She was told to follow up with a gynecologist regarding a previous diagnosis and was discharged. The following day her condition worsened and sought treatment at a different ER where she was diagnosed with an unknown septic infection. Her health deteriorated rapidly and she fell into a coma. Nearly all of her organs failed and led to gangrene in her arms and leg. All four limbs had to be amputated. Mayo and her family sued for medical malpractice and the jury awarded her $15 million in non-economic damages plus the cost of her medical bills. Had House Bill 1215 been in effect, she would have received $250,000 – a minuscule amount for losing every limb.
Ultimately this bill is bad for the people, deadly for patient safety and good for insurance companies. This bill however has not yet passed which is why it’s important to spread the word and fight back. You can protect your rights by sending letters to your local government, sharing the issue on social media, or taking action here: http://www.takejusticeback.com/ProtectPatients
To view the actual bill, please follow this link.