American Medical Association President-elect John Nelson has been stumping in Wyoming to drum up local support for a second shot at a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state Legislature to consider legislation to possibly create malpractice award caps and an independent malpractice review panel.
Nelson and members of the Wyoming Medical Society last week attended a rally along with about 250 physicians, patients and hospital officials outside the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, said Susie Wacker, a spokeswoman for the society. Nelson also traveled to a town hall meeting in Wheatland and visited Cheyenne to meet with others about rising malpractice costs.
"What's impressive to me is the number of physicians coming out and the number of people coming out," Nelson said at the end of what he described as a three-day "house call" in support of the Wyoming initiative. "There is a tremendous amount of energy here."
Last year, a joint state House-Senate resolution that would have allowed Wyoming legislators to consider capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice liability lawsuits died in a Senate subcommittee. But the Legislature also created a panel that studied the malpractice issue for six months and recently recommended the constitutional amendment and the creation of a medical screening panel to review the legitimacy of malpractice claims before trial.
A bill to act on the recommendations should be introduced during the legislative session this year, Wacker said. Passage would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers before being sent to the governor for his signature.
Gov. David Freudenthal, a former U.S. attorney in Wyoming under the Clinton administration, has pledged to sign the bill if passed and bring the issue to a referendum, Wacker said.