Medical malpractice caps: ineffective wherever they're tried

Every state in the nation wrestles with decisions over how best to serve its citizens. In Missouri, we have repeatedly wrestled with different approaches on the how to handle cases in which patients are harmed by doctor or hospital negligence.

Florida is currently faced with similar decisions on medical malpractice after its state Supreme Court held that caps on noneconomic damages were unconstitutional, much as the Missouri high court ruled here a couple of years ago.

A Florida newspaper recently ran an interesting op-ed on the practical effects of a medical malpractice cap, noting that the limits on damages were “a misguided legislative attempt to solve a problem that is not caused by the amount of money awarded to compensate victims of medical malpractice.”

The caps serve to punish those people unfortunate enough to be badly harmed by negligent doctors, while failing to lower the cost of malpractice insurance for physicians and failing to stop the tide of medical errors hurting patients.

Studies have shown that preventable medical errors contribute to between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patient deaths per year in the U.S. That means avoidable medical mistakes rank third, behind only heart disease and cancer, among the leading causes of deaths of Americans. So it’s not surprising that courts and the public would recognize that medical malpractice caps are not only unconstitutional, but ineffective in diminishing the cause of the problem.

When someone in the Joplin area is harmed by a negligent hospital or doctor, they should speak with an attorney experienced in the complexities of medical malpractice cases.

Source: Sun-Sentinel, "No: The caps punish victims of medical mistakes," Debra Henley, May 27, 2014

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