The cap on medical malpractice damages in California, which has been in effect for several decades, may be increased if supporters of a new proposal have their way. A vote on the medical malpractice cap will be on the November ballot if supporters gather the necessary number of signatures. As would be expected, reactions have been mixed between the public and the medical community.
The medical profession’s general stance is that no amount of money will compensate a person or their family for injuries or death that happen due to a mistake made by a doctor or hospital. One doctor says that no amount of money could replace his child and that the proposal is overreaching. He suggests that lawmakers find a better way to address the situation with sound policy. Medical professionals also claim that increasing the potential damages to be recovered would increase health care costs and trigger a reduction in staff or reduction in pay.
The other side of the argument is that the medical community just does not want a change that will subject it to more damages when a mistake occurs. One consumer advocate points to the amount of damages that may be available when someone loses a loved one in a car accident. In those cases it is up to a jury to make a decision on damages based upon the victim’s individual circumstances and the negligence of the person who caused the accident. The jury is not expected to limit the compensation to $250,000. So why should a victim’s life be limited to a value of $250,000 when a hospital or doctor makes a mistake?
Determining the value of a person’s life or the extent of grief suffered by the person’s loved ones is not something that cannot be solved by math. The circumstances in every medical malpractice case are different – the victim’s age and earning capacity, how many children have to be supported, how much fault or negligence was involved in the case, and more. With these complex factors, it is difficult to say that every person’s death, permanent disability or injury is worth less than $250,000. But, if the proposal makes it onto the ballot, it will be up to the voters to decide in November.
Source: KCAL Los Angeles, “Controversy Surrounds Proposal That Would Increase Malpractice Damage Cap,” March 21, 2014