There is a new idea out there that says that tort reform in Ohio makes it too difficult for doctors to seek medical attention from the courts. The argument goes something like this; “Who cares if the doctor is injured while making an ethical mistake, as long as I am not required to pay for the medical care?” But is this the right thing to say? What about all those people in the ranks of medicine that are willing to take any settlement in order to avoid the hassles and inconvenience of a long court trial? How can this affect the number of doctors that choose to practice medicine in Ohio?
First, let’s discuss some of the cases that doctors file every day in Ohio. Doctors file personal injury claims, workman’s compensation claims, wrongful death claims, etc. Because they have a legal responsibility to their patients, they must provide proper medical care, but it also must be ensured that they do not violate the ethical rules of medicine by providing treatment that puts the life of the patient in danger.
The Ohio State Medical board has been very concerned with the growing trend of medical malpractice cases going to trial. According to the recent figures, more than ten percent of all medical malpractice cases were resolved through a jury trial. These cases often end with the doctor being found liable for medical malpractice. As a result of the rising number of these cases that end in victory for the defendant, Ohio has placed limits on the damages that can be awarded in such lawsuits. Recently, the state of Ohio has passed a law that makes it difficult for medical personnel to be sued after an injury or illness.
The problem with this law is that the new restrictions on doctors suing patients for malpractice has left many doctors in an impossible position. Hospitals and medical personnel have all kinds of insurance and rules in place that protect them from being sued unless they violate those rules. Doctors, on the other hand, are left with either accepting the lawsuit and settling, or finding themselves on the losing end and having to pay out of pocket for malpractice that they might not have caused. If the new laws on doctors sued for malpractice had been in place at the time of the injury or illness, some of the unnecessary suffering doctors perform on patients could have been avoided.
One doctor who has experienced the effects of the gag rule is Dr. Sam Katz, a member of the Physicians’ Group. Dr. Katz discovered that one of the plaintiffs, a woman who suffered a heart attack, was not told that she had such a disease until it was too late. Despite her complaints to the attending physician regarding her symptoms, the attending physician did not mention the disease to her, even though the symptoms she was experiencing were consistent with a heart attack. Because the victim had a heart attack, the lawsuit against Dr. Katz, which was later dropped, claimed that he failed to appropriately treat the plaintiff due to the gag rule.
Dr. Katz is not the only plaintiff who has had her case dismissed due to the gag rule. Another lawsuit against a Cleveland hospital resulted in a $1.75 million settlement to a cancer victim. Despite the hospital’s efforts to argue that the settlement was justified because the plaintiff was a smoker, the Ohio Supreme Court found otherwise, ruling that the lawsuit was brought about by the nature of the treatment involved. In this instance, the court did not rule in favor of the plaintiff, but instead vacated the lower court’s ruling. The plaintiff later lost her appeal to the state’s highest court.
According to the Medical Society of Ohio, medical malpractice has been on the rise over the past decade. Because there is no limit to the amount of money that can be awarded in a suit, lawyers and medical professionals say that frivolous lawsuits are increasing at an alarming rate in Ohio and across the country. Proponents of tort reform in Ohio argue that because medical malpractice cases are filed more often, frivolous lawsuits are becoming more common. As a result, frivolous lawsuits are destroying the ability of courts to fairly decide cases and awarding compensation to victims.
Proponents of tort reform in Ohio argue that more people will receive fair representation if medical malpractice attorneys are allowed to bring cases that are similar to those in which they usually win. Under the proposed legislation, the state would be forced to pay the attorney for services rendered, regardless of whether or not the case was successful in obtaining compensation. Ohio is currently tied up in a fierce debate over the bill. While Democratic leaders in both chambers of the state house are trying to garner support for the bill, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R) of Ohio has said that he is considering a possible vote against the legislation. Proponents of the bill hope that enough Ohio citizens will pressure the legislature to override the override, but if it fails, it is believed that the medical malpractice industry will be back in full force in Ohio.