Putting a price on pain; State struggles to keep doctors, patients happy

Charleston Gazette
Sunday, November 17, 2002

On a June 2001 morning, Mack Bailey, 71, was lying in a hospital room, a bag of chemotherapy strapped to his arm.

The Webster County disabled coal miner had bladder cancer. But his wife, Pauline, and six adult daughters were optimistic.

As the first bag of chemotherapy drained into their father’s body, Bailey got hungry — for the first time in weeks. He snacked on a cheese sandwich, pickle and a piece of pizza.

But several hours later, the doctor had bad news for the Bailey family: A nurse had overdosed Bailey with chemotherapy. Thirteen days later, he was dead. The family sued the hospital for malpractice. “We need to stop this from happening to someone else,” said one daughter, Nancy Mathews.

Legal experts say plaintiffs like Bailey’s family may suffer the most from a proposed reform that doctors say will help slow the increase in their medical malpractice insurance: a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

Bailey was retired, so the family can’t recoup lost wages. His hospital bills weren’t enough to sue for economic damages. So under the cap, their noneconomic losses would be limited at $250,000.

. . .

“But there is no correlation between the enactment of severe tort reform and rates,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the not-for-profit Center for Justice and Democracy, which advocates for issues related to the nation’s civil justice system.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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