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New Memo Purports to Reveal Presidential Thoughts on Medical Malpractice

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm keeps an ear out for information about proposed state and federal legislation which might impact Illinois medical malpractice victims. Every year those who stand to financially gain from taking legal rights away from those hurt by medical errors mount efforts to get those rights curtailed. It is often difficult to get a clear idea of the likelihood of passage of any particular piece of legislation. That is because so many of the issues are involved in deals and compromises with competing interest groups. While a public official in a position of power has an opinion on an issue, it cannot be deemed conclusive that the individual will maintain that position. Various issues-even those that have no connection to one another-interplay to determine what does get passed and become law and what does not. For example, an official who does not necessarily believe that tort reform is a good idea might actually support it in order to get a favorable vote from an opponent on a tax issue.

The complexity of the legislative process makes it difficult to make any prognostications about future legislation with any certainty. However, that does not stop many people from trying.

For example, Med Page Today published a story this weekend discussing a memo that purports to reveal President Obama’s thinking on the issue of medical malpractice. While the memo may have some insight into the process, it is important not to read too much into any single document or statement about what the future might hold regarding these issues.

The memo explains that abut two and half years ago the President was of the opinion that the best approach to the issue was having physicians disclose when errors occur, issue an apology, and pursue mediation. The memo suggests that he valued this approach because he thought it would best compliment his bigger goal of getting the healthcare bill passed.

The document, prepared for the president by two close aides involved in issues related to healthcare, listed five different “medical liability reform options.” Beyond admitting the error and apologies, the other approaches include: safe-harbor provisions, pre-trial administrative screening panels, health courts, and alternative dispute resolution. Interestingly, the President never actually indicated public support for a disclosure and mediation approach to the issue. However, some are using this memo as evidence that this is the position he actually believes is strongest and might pursue in the future.

In the end, the President’s healthcare bill passed. As part of that package $25 million in grants was earmarked for programs to “test alternatives” to the tort system of medical liability cases.

The Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm will fight night and day to oppose all efforts that unfairly, unnecessarily, and arbitrarily take away basic rights of residents to fully access their court system. We will follow along through the year as more information about federal proposals on this issue comes to light. In addition, we will provide information for all advocates on ways that they can join the effort to preserve fairness and justice for medical malpractice victims.

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