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Proposed ballot measure urges medical malpractice reform

Across the nation, the variation with which medical malpractice claims are handled is great. Some states impose limits on the amount of money that victims or their family members can receive from these claims while others, like Pennsylvania, have no limits whatsoever. Concerns among patient advocates about how to best protect patients against errors such as a failure to diagnose cancer or delayed treatment is great.

Efforts are underway in many states to change the laws that govern punitive malpractice awards. In California, such a change may end up being put in the hands of voters on this coming November’s ballot. If passed, it would be the first such action since the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975. A group is currently collecting signatures in support of the change and must submit enough signed petitions by March 24 in order to qualify as a fall ballot measure.

There are three primary components of the proposed new law. The first is an increase in the state’s damage award cap, which is currently set at $250,000, as well as planned adjustments for future inflation. A second component would require doctors to reference a statewide database prior to prescribing select medications in order to prevent abuse of the drugs. The measure also calls for random drug tests of doctors.

Every patient has the right to safe medical care. Fears about the actions of a negligent physician should not prevent people from seeking help when needed. Anyone who suspects a medical error has taken place may wish to talk to an attorney to learn if compensation may be possible.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Voters may decide medical malpractice cap,” Melanie Mason, February 18, 2014

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