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Doctors Try to Block Open Information About Medical Malpractice Awards in Other States

Blog readers are aware that the Illinois’ “Patient’s Right to Know” Act became law last year. The law, supported by virtually every patient rights advocate and Illinois medical malpractice lawyer, put an online database back online to provide patients with information about the state’s medical professionals. The logic behind the bill was clear. Nothing matters more to local residents than their health. It is only reasonable for residents to have easy access to basic information about those who they are trusting with their health. The information provided includes details about the professional’s education, experience, as well as whether or not they have been involved in an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit.

Getting this information back online was not an easy battle. The powerful Illinois medical lobby fought the measure virtually every step of the way, even though the point was only to provide patients with basic information if they chose to access it. The online database had previously been online a few years ago. It was put up in conjunction with a bill which enacted egregious “tort reform” measures that arbitrarily capped damages that victims of Illinois medical malpractice could receive from a jury-regardless of the harm caused. Fortunately, those caps were struck down a few years ago by the state Supreme Court. However, the database was taken down as well. It was only with the passage of this latest Patient’s Right to Know Act that the information was again made available to the public.

However, the Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm know that these sorts of gains are never safe. That is because those opposed to openness about the healthcare process are constantly working legislatively to enact changes to take these gains away. Various tort reform efforts are still being proposed and, surely, if the political winds align, efforts will be made to take down this database again as well.

Similar battles are being raged throughout the country. For example, the Star Tribune reported yesterday on a proposal to provide similar sunshine failed in nearby Minnesota. That measure to provide basic information about medical malpractice awards and state disciplinary sanctions was rejected by the state’s medical board last week. Those advocating for the measure explained how it remains logical for patients to be able to learn if their doctor has been disciplined or lost medical privileges because of the care that they have provided. As one former board member and patients rights advocate explained, “This is information that consumers need to know. The more knowledge we have about all of these doctors, the better off we are.”

Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm shares these concerns. In virtually all cases, sunshine is the best policy. It is difficult to understand how a community is best served by keeping true and accurate information hidden from the public about that which matters most. Those involved claim that the public would be “confused” if they were provided this information. It is similar to accusations that juries are unfit to make decisions about cases damages, experts, and the merits of lawsuits generally.

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