A proposal under discussion in the South to dispense with juries in favor of a government agency to rule on medical malpractice is just the latest in a series of wrongheaded efforts to deprive victims of medical errors of their rights.
As described on the civil justice website PopTort.com, the proposal is favored by Richard L. Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, a professional health-care staffing agency. Does anyone else see the irony in its website, which promotes the company’s charitable efforts but whose leader is considerably less than giving when it comes to fairly compensating patients who have been harmed? His idea is to dump jury trials for anybody injured by medical malpractice in Georgia and Florida and replace them with a government body composed of political appointees and bureaucrats representing the medical and business communities.
These deciders would be empowered to develop “compensation schedules” completely divorced from the facts of any given case. That might be convenient for Jackson, his cronies and government workers who would be excused from exercising any judgment or thought, but whatever happened to the fundamental U.S. notion of grievances being adjudicated by a jury of one’s peers?
Was Jackson absent from school the day the Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a simple cap on noneconomic damages was unconstitutional? Did he not get that the court confirmed that the determination of damages rests “peculiarly within the province of the jury”?
Who died and left him in charge?
We’re so tired of the yammering about “tort reform,” which, as readers of this blog know, is code for “capping the amount of damages someone who has suffered a medical error can recover,” or otherwise hassling patients who have the temerity to try to hold the medical industry accountable for injuries.
As Pop Tort wonders:
Who believes that instituting a state-imposed rigid, dictatorial system of compensation schedules and liability standards for doctors, replacing what is now a free-market approach to holding health care providers accountable, is a good idea?
Who believes that it makes sense in this fiscal climate to create an entirely new governmental agency to handle what are a relatively small percentage of medical malpractice cases in our court system?
Who believes that a system in which catastrophically harmed children likely will be compensated at well below their actual losses, forcing families onto taxpayer-funded Medicaid, is a good idea?”
A story posted last week on DigitalJournal.com refers to a survey in which U.S. physicians said that traditional tort reform efforts such as caps on monetary damages for pain and suffering won’t address the higher costs associated with the practice of defensive medicine. That’s when doctors overtest, overprescribe and overtreat because, they say, they’re afraid of getting sued for malpractice if they don’t.
They’re right, of course, as we’ve noted in previous blogs, that malpractice caps don’t reduce costs or in any other way effect positive change.
The survey was conducted by Jackson Healthcare. In its summary, the company claimed that among the ideas floated about how to reform or replace the medical malpractice system, a no-fault, administrative patients’ compensation system would be most likely to curb the practice of defensive medicine.
Well, when you ask the inmates of the asylum if they’d like to have custody of the keys, what answer do you expect to receive?
The Center for Justice & Democracy, which sponsors Pop Tort, released its own study last week, “Georgia’s Patient Compensation System – A New State Agency That Will Harm Patients.” If you’re interested in a more analytical examination of what such a gross challenge to trial-by-jury would yield, we advise you read the one conducted by the experts instead of by the folks seeking not justice, but to cover their exposed backsides.
Remember, it’s the patients who wear the hospital gowns. It’s their exposure that deserves to be protected.