A new medical malpractice “tort reform” fight is brewing in a nearby state which is an important reminder of the fact that patients continue to face legislative attacks on their ability to access the civil justice system. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm believes that it is absolutely crucial for all community members to understand exactly what these tort reform laws do.
Unfortunately, far too much of the discussion of these issues is way too general, dealing in stereotypes that completely distort the actual laws being proposed and the effects that they might have. For example, often many community members support these laws under the false assumption that somehow every law that takes away legal rights from patients will magically lower healthcare costs. Even legislators fail to actually delve into the specifics of these proposals to determine if those very general claims have any connection to the policy changes on which they are voting. This failure to look closely at the actual law means that incredibly unfair and dangerous legislation gets passed without citizens understanding the damage that has been done.
Michigan, our neighbor to the north, is currently debating a legislative proposal that would further savage the rights of medical patients harmed by preventable medical errors. The latest bills would in many ways completely immunize doctors from all legal accountability, even when they acted with reckless abandon. Every medical malpractice attorney, patient advocate, and anyone who believe in basic fairness should stand strongly against this and every similar proposal.
Michigan enacted “tort reform” laws in 1995 that made it far more difficult for state residents harmed by the misconduct of medical professionals to file suit and be able to share their story with a jury. However, perhaps buoyed by their ability to advance misguided legislative proposals in the past, certain big interests are pushing even more aggressive bills that would make it virtually impossible for patients to file suit.
Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys appreciate that this particular legislation is incredibly intrusive. As written, the bills (SB 1110, & 1115-1118) would require plaintiffs in these cases to prove that the doctor intentionally hurt them in order to recover. Of course, meeting that standard is a near impossibility. It would virtually only be possible if the doctor admitted that they provided poor care on purpose in order to harm the patient.
It is hard to overestimate the devastation that this would wreck on the basic sense of justice in our civil system. The law would do away with the objective standard of care that has always been used to measure reasonableness in the way citizens interact with one another. As a result, even if doctors were drunk, drugged, or obviously incompetent they would still not be able to be held responsible for their conduct so long as they didn’t intend to hurt the patient. No one who understands how the justice system works or believe that patients deserve fairness could possibility support such a far-reaching effort as this.
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