Are Proposed Medical Malpractice Caps Fair to Missourians?

How much is a life worth? According to some Missouri legislators, no more than $350,000.

That's the cap for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits that Missouri lawmakers are proposing. In other words, if you are injured or your loved dies from a preventable medical error, the government - not a jury of your peers - has already decided the maximum financial compensation appropriate for the emotional harm caused if this law sees the light of day.

At least there still are no proposed caps to compensate victims for their economic damages, such as lost wages and medical bills, which may go on for a lifetime.

We've been down this road before. A similar cap was enacted in 2005 but eventually struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court for violating Missourians right to a jury trial.

Financial caps on non-economic damages run counter to our legal system and our nation's collective sense of fairness. But proponents insist this measure will reduce the cost of healthcare and help retrain and recruit more doctors.

Is this true? There is serious doubt about that.

In 1975, California enacted the first caps on pain and suffering, setting the limit at $250,000. Several states since then have adopted similar restrictions to their citizens' legal rights.

In 2013, the Center for Justice & Democracy released the findings of its study that reviewed research in the intervening years into the effects of medical malpractice lawsuit caps. To summarize the findings, the researchers could find no relationship between medical malpractice caps and where physicians decide to practice.

And while some studies showed that physician insurance premiums were lowered in a few states that had caps, there is no evidence that consumers in those states saw their health care costs fall.

If you or a family member has suffered severe injuries due to hospital negligence or some other medical mistake, an attorney can pursue your legal rights to the compensation you deserve - not what a group of lawmakers decide upon.


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