M Live is reporting on an incredibly dangerous new string of medical malpractice “reform” bills that would decimate the ability of patients in the state of Michigan to seek redress when hurt by incompetent medical care. Families who suffer birth injuries as a result of poor care would undoubtedly also be affected by these measures if they become law. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm appreciates that to need to set the record straight on these issues.
Not only will the supposed “benefits” of these plans ever come to fruition, but community members will find their legal rights completely decimated. Unfortunately, most residents will not be made fully aware of the problem unless they are injured by medical errors themselves and are in need of legal recourse.
The Proposed Michigan Law
Michigan already passed a string of “tort reform” laws in the mid-1990s which arbitrarily capped damages and otherwise made it harder for those hurt by medical malpractice-including birth injury victims-from filing a suit and making it to trial.
But now certain entities are pushing for even more aggressive legislation that would completely decimate the rights of state residents. The series of bills would eliminate the ability to recover for certain damages altogether. Perhaps even more egregiously, the bill would alter the fundamental concepts of negligence in certain civil suits.
All those familiar with the civil justice system appreciate the role of the objective standards of reasonableness that guides lawsuits by one community members against another private citizen, business, or public body. The idea is simple. When determining whether one acted negligently, we compare the actions of the individual against the actions of “reasonable” people in the same situation. For medical cases, that means the actions of the doctor, nurse, or aide is compared with that of an objectively reasonable doctor, nurse, or aide. Understanding what the reasonable medical professional would do is accomplished in large part via use of expert witnesses.
However, one of the bills would do away with the fundamental reasonableness standard. Instead, patients hurt by inadequate care would have to prove that the individual medical professionals subjectively intended to cause them harm. Every Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm-and all civil lawyers-understand intuitively that this standard is virtually impossible to meet.
In practical terms this means that the patient cannot recover no matter what, so long as the doctor doesn’t admit that he actually intended to perform incompetently. That means doctors who were drunk at the time, falling asleep, or otherwise completely unable to do their job adequately would still get a free pass no matter how bad they hurt the unsuspecting patient.
It is difficult to understand how any reasonable legislator or resident could support this sort of attack on the basic sense of fairness in our system. It is incumbent upon all of us to spread accurate information about these proposals. Those voting on these measure should understand what they are doing when they completely immunize medical professionals from all liability-shifting the costs of the errors away from the responsible parties and onto taxpayers.
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