Missouri House tries again to protect negligent doctors

The Missouri House of Representatives is trying to circumvent our state's Supreme Court. Two days ago, the House backed a proposal to restore limits on medical malpractice compensation for people who have been harmed by a negligent doctor or hospital.

The proposal would reinstate the $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages that the court struck down as unconstitutional two years ago in a landmark ruling.

In a 4-3 decision, the court said the cap on noneconomic damages “violates the constitutional right to trial by jury.” The court said the cap restricted juries in their “fact-finding role.”

Some members of the Missouri House want to get around that ruling by declaring that medical malpractice claims are not covered by common law extant at the time the state Constitution was adopted in 1820. Malpractice claims would, if the proposal is made into law, be covered by state law.

A similar proposal made its way through the House last year, only to die in the Senate.

Proponents of the caps claim the malpractice compensation limits are needed to keep insurance costs down for doctors and thereby prevent physicians from fleeing the state.

An issue they inevitably gloss over is that malpractice caps harm only those people who have already been seriously injured by a doctor or hospital that made negligent surgical errors, medication errors, diagnostic errors or other preventable mistakes.

Not all politicians are eager to see the state punish those victims. One Lee’s Summit representative said it is “fat out immoral” to place a cap on malpractice compensation. A Blue Springs representative said she believes the proposal violates her belief “in the sanctity of human life.”

She said that if the state restores the limits, “we’re saying that a life is not worth more than $350,000 or $500,000 or whatever we decide.”

We will keep you updated in this space on this important issue.

Source: KMOV.com, "Missouri House backs limits on medical malpractice," David Lieb, Feb. 27, 2014



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