North Carolina Senate Approves Of Medical Malpractice Reforms

Posted on Mar 17, 2011
Senate Bill 33, which would overhaul North Carolina’s medical malpractice laws, was approved by the NC State Senate this week and will move to the House of Representatives in the coming days.

The law would make emergency room doctors less responsible for any medical errors they make. If the new medical malpractice law passes, ER doctors could be sued for gross negligence – willful misconduct – but not for simple negligence. In addition the law would put a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages. This law has been passed in other states, though some courts have found it to be unconstitutional.

Proponents of the new law say that emergency room doctors are often working in difficult, stressful conditions that require quick decisions and a different approach to medicine. They also say that ER doctors don’t get to pick and choose their cases and aren’t often very familiar with the case history of everyone who walks into the door. Disallowing patients to sue for simple negligence will protect physicians from malpractice that occurs in crowded emergency rooms or with patients with complicated medical issues.

Those who oppose the law say that medical malpractice victims in emergency rooms will end up paying for the damages caused by doctor mistakes and doctor negligence – and that doctors would no longer be responsible for medical mistakes unless they were drunk, on drugs, or going out of their way to harm a patient.  Very simply, the bill will let doctors off the hook for many of their errors and do nothing to promote the future safety of patients with medical emergencies.

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