Virtually every Chicago medical malpractice attorney is forced to fight a daily battle beating back to false claims that repeatedly seek to link the rights of victims and use the civil justice system to public financial problems. We know that big local interests who have a lot to gain by limiting the rights of Illinois medical malpractice victims have waged a campaign for decades in an attempt to take away the ability of victims to hold their wrongdoers accountable. Of course, it is difficult to make this notion palpable to the vast majority of community members unless they frame the debate as one necessary to save certain public interests-like the overall costs of healthcare or the government budget problems. Therefore, even thought the actual connection with these issues is greatly exaggerated (and often downright false), many so-called “tort reformers” continue to claims that the legal rights of victims have to be taken away to save society money.
The latest use of these tactics is going on right now, directed at members of the “Super Committee” charged with making deficit reduction recommendations. This group was the one created by the latest budget compromise enacted when a group of House members sought to deny the President the ability to borrow money to pay off already existing federal debt. The Committee will consider whether medical malpractice “reform” proposals-such as those modeled after the draconian House Resolution 5 (H.R. 5)-will be included as part of the deficit reduction plan. It goes without saying that the members of this committee should not be distracted by the rhetoric which claims that money can be saved only by cutting off certain uses of the justice system.
Recently many patient rights’ allies sent a letter to the members of the committee urging them not to include H.R. 5 ideas in the deficit reduction plan. This included a large group of consumer and public safety groups reminding committee members that not only would use of these measures hurt injured patients, but they would actually increase the deficit. All of this is on top of the fact that use of these so –called medical malpractice reform strategies would be an unprecedented federal usurpation of the rights of states and localities to make decisions about the justice system on their own. For one thing, even the most generous estimates of the potential costs savings of these issues-likely an overestimate-claims that a maximum of four-tenths of one percent could be saved on health care costs. However, enacted these changes would mean that an additional 4,000 patients would be killed every year. All of this also does not include consideration of the new financial burdens on localities should these laws pass.
Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm strongly opposes all efforts to limit patient’s rights by those who stand to personally gain from the effort. It is important that all budget reduction efforts be focused on information rooted in fact-not heated rhetoric that has been built up on general claims and not actual data. The truth of the matter is that improving the nation’s budgetary problems will not be accomplished by limiting the rights of medical patients. In fact, the best data that we have actually suggests that the overall problems will only be exacerbated by such efforts. The Super Committee must be aware of this as it enters into deliberations.
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