Each Chicago birth injury lawyer has been active in the fight against misguided tort reform legislation, because we understand how it will affect local residents. It is not an exaggeration to say that medical care providers may make more mistakes and victims will receive less redress for their losses if these bills pass. Perhaps the most damaging current proposal is House Resolution 5. H.R. 5 is a bill that passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives last month and would mandate arbitrary rules on all states in the country, including Illinois.
All legislation is a balance of the claimed benefits of the measure against any potential adverse ramifications. When that test is applied to bills like this, the scales tip overwhelming against the measure. The claimed benefits are unlikely to materialize and the harm caused by the changes would be devastating.
There are two big problems with this sort of legislation. On one hand it represents a patently unfair attack on the basic legal rights of those hurt by the misconduct of others. The justice system is supposed to be the one place where victims of this sort of misconduct are on a level playing field with those who acted unreasonably, no matter how big or powerful the defendant. These laws change that by arbitrarily limiting the amount of compensation that the defendant has to provide, no matter what the jury who hears the evidence deems reasonable under the circumstances. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at our firm appreciate that this infringement alone is worth defeating H.R. 5 and similar bills.
However, beyond that, there are very real patient safety concerns implicated by legislation that removes incentives for hospitals to prevent medical errors.
This is perhaps best evidenced by the research into the prevalence of medical errors over the past decade and the progress (or lack of progress) that has taken place since then. The grandfather study in this area was put out in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine. The study, “To Err is Human,” found that medical malpractice was killing more Americans annually than things like breast cancer, AIDS, or even car accidents. The report famously claimed that the number of deaths caused by preventable medical errors was equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every single day, killing everyone on board. If that happened the airline industry would obviously be in an uproar doing everything possible to fix the problem.
Yet little has been done to correct the problem in the healthcare industry. Of course, like any other industry, the healthcare industry is motive by the bottom line: profit. Laws like H.R. 5 provide even less incentive in the past for the field to make changes to promote safety and eliminate errors. Considering that patients safety efforts are often time consuming and expensive, it is unlikely that many facilities will take real action to prevent the harm unless they are forced to do so. As a result, it is not an exaggeration to say that passage of legislation like H.R. 5 may lead to more Illinois birth injuries, or, at the very least, fewer attempts to cut back on the current total number of preventable errors.
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