Why we need “MedMal” Caps.

Yesterday I read an interesting article about a couple who sued a doctor for failing to properly diagnose a birth defect in their firstborn son:

In what is being called a “wrongful birth” case, a jury awarded more than $21 million to a couple who claimed a doctor misdiagnosed a severe birth defect in their son, leading them to have a second child with similar problems. – [Yahoo/AP]

However the couples lawyer made a statement I found interesting.

Searcy said he would push state lawmakers to pass a bill awarding the Estradas money over the $200,000 cap.

“I believe that this case is so powerful and this tragedy was so preventable and is so poignant, that it is the kind of case that should rise above the fray and rise above party politics,” Searcy said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Out of curiosity, I decided to get the opinion of a subject matter expert, a very talented OB/GYN I have known for many, many years. The verdict? Well, the couples doc messed up. But in contrast to the opinion of the lawyer who tried the case, my subject matter expert, the Good Doctor, thought the award was on the high side. No surprise there.

Now in this particular case, the suit was well warranted. But the comment by the lawyer brought up a very important issue. The lawyers statement would seem to imply that claim caps are simply a result of “party politics”. Me personally, I think the caps are necessary, if for nothing more that the fact that people are not self regulating.

Basically, people are greedy. Most folks/juries that go into a courtroom aren’t thinking “what would be a fair award?” they are thinking “How much can I/would I want to get out of this?”. As a result, judgements/settlements seem to get higher and higher every year. And then you have the folks who sue, not because they doctor did anything wrong, but simply because they are unhappy with how things turned out. In either case, a settlement, judgement, or even just a trial, can be expensive, and the medical industry pays the price, whether they are at fault or not.

Thats not to say nobody really deserves what they get. I know there are cases, like this one, where large settlements or judgements are certainly warranted. But let’s think long term for a moment. Nobody can stay in a business that they can’t make a living on. Left to their own devices, people would run the medical industry out of business, and then there wouldn’t be any doctors left to sue. Or they would become so expensive we wouldn’t be able to afford them.

Yes, at this point that is just a hypothetical scenario, but still, with our very special brand of greed, if we had no caps, well, I could see us getting close to being foot loose and doctor free in about a decade or two…

$21 million awarded for ‘wrongful birth’ – [Yahoo/AP]


1 Response to “Why we need “MedMal” Caps.”

  1. 1 SM
    July 26, 2007 at 5:31 am

    The ripple effect would happen as well. Liability insurance gets built into the prices of many other services. Imagine how much more expensive car insurance could get!

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