Skip to comments.[Tennessee] Legislators kill medical malpractice relief
Posted on 03/29/2006 3:46:45 PM PST by SmithL
NASHVILLE -- Despite a massive lobbying effort and doctors declaring that Tennessee faces a "crisis," legislation to put new state limits on medical malpractice lawsuits has been killed for another year.
The bill backed by the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) and a coalition of 46 other organizations was defeated in the five-member Civil Practice subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Two members voted for it; three against.
Rep. Rob Briley, D-Nashville, who chairs the subcommittee, said proponents simply had not presented any objective evidence that lawsuits have really caused a problem in Tennessee and that the proposed limits would be unfair to patients who are victims of incompetence.
"We are really disappointed," said Dr. John Ingram of Maryville, part of a contingent of physicians who were on hand, wearing white coats, to watch the vote and show support.
The TMA has been sending 50 doctors per week for eight weeks to the Legislature to push for passage of the bill, which would put a $250,000 cap on "non-economic" damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill would also put new limits attorney fees.
"This was very, very important to the state of Tennessee and we think access to health care is now going to be getting worse and worse," said Ingram.
The American Medical Association designated Tennessee as a "crisis state" in medical malpractice at a Feb. 14 news conference, contending that the threat of lawsuits and high insurance rates are jeopardizing access to health care.
Rep. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, House sponsor of the bill, said that every cardiothorasic surgeon who has practiced in Tennessee for 10 years or more has had a lawsuit filed against him or her. A majority of those in obstetrics and gynecology for 10 years have also been sued, he said, and in some areas doctors no longer practice some specialties.
"When you get to where every single provider who has practiced for 10 years has a lawsuit against them, I think that is a crisis," said Overbey.
But Briley, who also chaired a legislative study on malpractice liability, said contentions that Tennessee has a problem because of lawsuits are "totally subjective."
"The TMA just polled their members and asked them whether there's a crisis in Tennessee. There were no objective standards, like the number of jury verdicts being up," said Briley. "There is nothing to indicate that states that has established these limits had any impact on malpractice insurance rates."
"It's just fear," he said. "The doctors are afraid they're going to get hit by big malpractice lawsuits and move out of the state."
Similar legislation has failed for the past four years in the Tennessee Legislature, though proponents made their most aggressive push ever in 2006. Overbey and Gary Zelizer, lobbyist for TMA, said the effort next year will be even stronger.
Dr. Phyllis Miller of Chattanooga, president of TMA, said the House vote came with negotiations scheduled between representatives of the TMA and the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, which opposes the bill, to see if some compromise could be reached.
She said the effort to "try and work something out with the trial lawyers" was "side-railed" by the subcommittee vote. Miller said she had hoped the panel would wait another week before voting.
Briley, however, said notice had been sent out three weeks ago that the subcommittee's final meeting would be this week and proponents were given ample opportunity to present their case. The malpractice bill was the last on its agenda and the panel is now closed until next year, meaning no reconsideration is possible.
Those on the subcommittee voting against the bill were Briley, Rep. Henri Brooks, D-Memphis, and House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, D-Clarksville. Those voting for it were Reps. Jerome Cochran, R-Elizabethton, and Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.
Despite the partisan split in voting, Overbey said he did not consider the bill partisan, noting that some Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.
Who will deliver your babies??? Lawyers???
Move to which state? They all face similar circumstances.
More legislators are lawyers than doctors...'nuff said!
This is why I NEVER, EVER vote for a "lawyer." The only reason the bass turds want to get elected to state and federal offices is to get their fingers deeper into our wallets.
We are going to have to put lawyers out of the business of stealing. They are screwing everyone royally.
If you are afraid of a doctor making mistakes, DON'T VISIT ONE!
I think all patients should be required to sign a "hold harmless" agreement before receiving medical treatment.
We'd all benefit...enormously!
We'd also benefit by closing the law schools and forcing law students to find honest occupations.
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