Good News For Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Victims

Thankfully, we will not see any sweeping Massachusetts medical malpractice tort reform any time soon.  On Monday, the US Senate voted down a bill that would have limited the relief afforded to medical malpractice victims.  The bill would have placed caps on punitive and pain and suffering damages available to medical malpractice victims.  Here is an article provided by the Associated Press:

(AP) – WASHINGTON-Senate Democrats on Monday blocked medical malpractice legislation during the Republicans’ opening session of a "health week" of proposals designed to win support from conservative voters – if not passage.

The dispatch of a pair of bills to cap the amount of damages juries can award in medical malpractice cases has been expected since last week. The roll calls fell well short of the 60 votes Republicans needed to advance the bill.

President George W. Bush said he was disappointed by the Senate’s failure to act "on this national problem that deserves a national solution."

"Unwilling to take on their trial-lawyer supporters, the Democrats led this effort to block these much-needed reforms," Bush said in a written statement issued hours after the votes.

Republicans forced votes on the bills to demonstrate their commitment to fighting what Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist called a "litigation lottery."

"It really boils down to the fact that health care dollars should be spent on patients and not on lawyers who are out abusing the system," said Frist.

Democrats have dismissed the bills as a boon to the insurance industry and an election-year effort by majority Republicans struggling against low poll numbers to maintain control of Congress. They said other bills, such as federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, should be brought up during the Republican "health week."

"I guess we’re going to have bills that excite the political base," said Democratic lawmaker Tom Harkin.

The first bill, rejected 48-42, would have capped punitive and pain and suffering judgments against a physician or health care professional at $250,000 (€195,986). It also would have allowed patients to be awarded up to $250,000 (€195,986) against one health care institution. Judgments against more than one institution would be capped at $750,000 (€587,959).

The other bill was rejected 49-44. It would have imposed similar caps on punitive and pain and suffering awards against doctors and institutions providing gynecological and obstetric care. The cap on awards from multiple defendants would be $500,000 (€391,972).

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