Malpractice bill becomes law Blagojevich signs it; reforms draw critics

Belleville News-Democrat
Friday, August 26, 2005

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday chose the county some call a "judicial hellhole" for the signing of a malpractice reform bill that supporters claim will help Illinois stop hemorrhaging doctors.
"Today, with this legislation, we are taking a major step forward to make sure that doctors keep practicing in Illinois and people get the medical care they need," Blagojevich said at a news conference in Madison County at Alton's St. Anthony's Hospital.
Among the new law's most controversial provisions is the capping of court awards in malpractice lawsuits at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals.
The signing ended two years of battles and compromises in the General Assembly, where the bill failed to pass in 2004.
"What a difference a year makes," Blagojevich said while surrounded by doctors, hospital workers and state legislators.
One of his own compromises, the governor said, was getting behind a bill he had sworn not to sign if it contained caps on awards for pain and suffering.
At another news conference on the other side of town, two members of Patients for Justice-- one blind and the other recovered -- said they are disappointed by Blagojevich's about-face on caps.
"If such a proposal had been in place when a doctor's misdiagnosis caused me to lose my eyesight, I wouldn't have recovered enough compensation to make the changes necessary in my life to cope with blindness," said Debi Surlas, 51, of Aurora.
Surlas' opthamalogist treated her in 1990 for glaucoma and did not check her for diabetic retinitis, even though Surlas has had juvenile diabetes since the age of 15.
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