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Let Juries Decide

March 1st, 2011

The ideal doctor is brilliant, caring, and infallible. Unfortunately, that ideal is impossible. At HensonFuerst Attorneys, we handle enough medical malpractice cases to know that doctors and hospitals make mistakes. Many times those “mistakes” could have been prevented if standard medical had been given, or if the hospital followed proper quality procedures.

When serious, preventable mistakes are made, it’s not the same as making a mistake in an office job. In hospitals, mistakes have serious repercussions—lost limbs, permanent disability, autoimmune disease, brain damage, and even death. And these types of mistakes aren’t rare:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that 4,000 patients die and 5,700 patients are permanently injured in North Carolina hospitals every year because of preventable medical mistakes.
  • The number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in North Carolina has sharply decreased over the past decade.  Only 1 in 20 patients who are severely harmed by a preventable medical mistake files suit.
  • While the number of malpractice lawsuits has been dropping, the number of doctors in North Carolina continues to increase. Between 1998 and 2008, the total population in North Carolina grew by 18%, while the physician population increased by 29%.
  • Medical malpractice premiums for North Carolina doctors have decreased, while the malpractice insurance companies have made record profits.

Imagine for a moment, that you go into a hospital for a common knee replacement surgery, and due to preventable circumstances, the surgery goes bad and you end up having to have your leg amputated above the knee. What do you think the hospital or doctor’s responsibility should be?

Well, if Senate Bill 33 passes, here’s what would happen:

  • In medical malpractice cases, the bill sets an arbitrary cap of $250,000 on damages for disfigurement, mutilation, loss of limb, paralysis, pain, suffering and death. The arbitrary cap would be especially devastating for injured children, homemakers, and the elderly, who have limited economic damages. In most of these cases the person injured by malpractice would be unable to pursue a claim, and those who negligently caused the injury would escape all responsibility.
  • An arbitrary cap on damages violates the right to a jury trial, guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution. The bill provides that in any case where a jury awards an injured patient more than $250,000 in “noneconomic damages,” the judge will overrule the jury, void its judgment of what is fair, and reduce the verdict to the amount decided by politicians in Raleigh. That’s unfair. And unconstitutional.
  • The bill gives hospitals and ER doctors complete immunity when they commit malpractice.  Under this bill, hospitals can provide negligent care, which other doctors in North Carolina agree is malpractice, but still have complete immunity.  They take no responsibility at all for their actions.

We believe that North Carolina doctors, hospitals, and lawmakers should focus on patient safety, not limiting the rights of injured patients.

What You Can Do

Don’t let insurance lobbyists take away your rights and leave us all in danger.  Use this link to contact your elected representatives: http://ncleg.net/GIS/RandR07/Representation.html.

Tell your representative that:  “Senate Bill 33 is a bad idea.  Hands off my right to trial where a jury decides what’s right.  Let’s make patients safer instead.”

Then, send this blog to friends. To find out more information and get involved, go to:
http://www.ncpatientsafety.org
http://www.ncaj.com/page/171859/

You can also follow Senate Bill 33 and other issues regarding your rights on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=26740228269

To learn more about Senate Bill 33, watch this short YouTube video:

“Let Juries Decide” on YouTube