State after state falls into the trap of pursuing wrong-minded so-called tort reform laws. These laws are marketed to the public as a necessity to prevent frivolous lawsuits. However, all these sorts of laws do in reality is deny those most injured by medical malpractice the ability to recover fully for injuries caused by the negligence of healthcare providers while often violating various constitutional provisions. Misguided and dangerous medical malpractice legislation is currently pending in the Georgia legislature.
Dangerous Tort Reform Measure Pending in Georgia
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Georgia’s legislature is considering medical malpractice legislation. The bill is Senate Bill 86. This new law would go even further than other states’ prior tort reform measures, stripping patients seriously injured by their doctors of any right to a trial by jury at all. Instead every single medical malpractice claim in the state would be handled by a sort of administrative tribunal.
The bill is named the “Patient Compensation Act,” but in reality it would do the exact opposite of compensating patients. It would set express limits on how much money a medical malpractice victim can recover without consideration for the unique and special factors that each case of medical malpractice entails.
Problems With an Administrative System Replacing the Court System
The immediate concern with such a system is that it will chip away at patients’ rights not only to a full recover for the injuries they suffer, but also to tested and proven mechanisms that are the very heart of our justice system. While our system of trial by jury is not perfect and mistakes are sometimes made, it is still one of if not they most brilliantly designed justice systems in the world. When it proceeds uncorrupted it allows for a beautiful combination of the democratic jury process and important judicial legal oversight to prevent the violation of parties rights. Safeguards are in place in the form of appeals so that if something does go wrong or is unjust in that jury process, it can be remedied. Additionally, in a world where the rich and powerful continually grow more rich and more powerful, the jury box is the one remaining area where regular, everyday people still get to make important ultimate decisions.
This democratic process is so important because health care, like any business, is profit driven. This means that in order for patient safety and quality of care to remain priorities we can not just rely on the good intentions of medical professionals. While any individual healthcare provider may care deeply for his or her patients’ well-being, ultimately the agencies they work for often force them to make decisions to protect that bottom-line. This means that in order for hurting patients to be something the medical industry avoids, harming patients must hurt the bottom-line. Juries can make a determination in a case as to exactly how much that bottom line needs to be hurt in order to compensate the injured patient and deter future medical misconduct. Some set schedule with limited payments will not fulfill that role, particularly if, much like damage caps in other states, the amount of payments does not increase with inflation.
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