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Medical malpractice reform may be on its way

Top lawmakers and some members of the incoming presidential administration are planning sweeping reforms in the country's health care system. One major change they propose involves medical malpractice, which they feel is reaching a state of crisis. According to proponents of reform, lawsuit abuse in New York and across the country wastes hundreds of billions of dollars as doctors order expensive, unnecessary tests to protect themselves from being sued.

The reform would include limits on damages awarded and raising the burden of proof required of supposedly injured patients. Advocates of the changes cite evidence that caps work. They say states that have enacted such reforms have seen liability insurance rates decrease. Such states have seen increases in the numbers of doctors available to treat patients, and better patient access to specialists.

However, opponents argue that the state of medicine is not as bad as the lawmakers say. The most recent rate of medical malpractice claims is half of what it was in 2003, and doctors are paying less for malpractice premiums. The kind of reforms proposed may be unfair to patients. Caps on damages seem to punish those who truly do suffer due to the negligence of medical professionals. In fact, studies show that 250,000 patients die of medical malpractice each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the country.

It remains to be seen if major reforms come to pass, though a person in New York who is injured because of below standard medical care has every right to seek justice. Medical malpractice can cause someone life-changing injury or even death. Those who desire to seek compensation for their suffering may find answers to their questions by consulting a dedicated personal injury attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, "Top Republicans say there's a medical malpractice crisis. Experts say there isn't.", Chad Terhune, Dec. 30

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