A medical malpractice reform bill recently introduced in the North Carolina Senate is the latest threat to a citizen’s private right of action against negligent health care providers. Senate Bill 23, which seeks to limit damages and would change the standard of medical negligence in claims involving emergency room errors, was introduced in February.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors argued that the measure would create huge savings by reducing defensive medicine practices, stating that extra testing and other diagnostic decisions make up a quarter of all health care costs in America, a vast exaggeration. In a 2010 study in the public policy journal Health Affairs, health care experts and other researchers from Harvard University showed that the medical liability system – inclusive of everything from defensive medicine and malpractice insurance to verdicts and settlements – amounts to less than two and a half percent of health care expenditures in the U.S.
The executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Patient Safety commented that the proposed legislation would actually do nothing to combat rising health care costs. Objective analysis seems to agree: the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of even broader legislation proposed in the U.S. House (which also threatens the rights of North Carolina medical malpractice victims) showed a proposed cost savings of well below one percent. At the same time, a severe patient safety toll would be imposed: a study cited by the CBO in its analysis predicts that such reforms would result in an increase in the U.S. death rate amounting to 4,000 additional patient deaths a year.
Hospital negligence and medical malpractice continue to cause avoidable suffering in North Carolina, including wrongful death. Our communities are served by many excellent medical institutions and thousands of skilled and dedicated health care professionals. But when a failure to adhere to accepted standards of medical practice leads to a surgical error, birth injury, cancer misdiagnosis or medication error, injury victims and their families must not be left without full legal recourse.
Victims of medical errors and surviving family members can discuss their concerns with an experienced North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer. An attorney can explain the latest legal developments and help you assess your prospects for recovery.