Op/Ed: Other Voices: Malpractice bill is a bad idea

Newport News’ Daily Press
Friday, September 23, 2005

By Laurie Beacham
 Phillip Lucy, a Peninsula resident, wears two prosthetic devices on his face. They replace half of his upper jaw, his cheek, part of his skull and an eye. He has reduced hearing, smell and taste, and has experienced countless surgeries. He spends an hour a day sterilizing the inside of his face so as to avoid infection.
 It started with nose bleeds that the doctor said could be from high blood pressure. Then came facial numbness and terrible headaches. Another doctor ordered specific kinds of CAT/MRI scans. When they were performed improperly, the doctor accepted them, anyway. Proper testing could have revealed the true problem.

 Confronted with his mistreatment, Lucy reluctantly sued his first two doctors. Having heard all the evidence, the jury compensated him for the incredible physical and emotional pain he'd suffered. Or so they thought. When Virginia law capping malpractice compensation kicked in, that compensation was reduced to 4 percent of its original amount. It turned out the law had little regard for Lucy's pain.
This summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal medical malpractice bill that would re-victimize patients around the country whose lives have been catastrophically altered by medical malpractice, the way Virginia law did to Lucy.

 But, as bad as Virginia's law is, the federal bill goes even further in some respects. It places a $250,000 cap on "non-economic damages," the ones that compensate for things like living with blindness, lost limbs, brain damage, and what Lucy has to go through every day of his life as a result of medical negligence.
Beacham is communications director for the Center for Justice and Democracy, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the importance of the civil justice system.

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us