National and state advocates of medical liability reforms are expressing disappointment with an Illinois Supreme Court decision overturning damage caps and other medical malpractice reforms adopted in a 2005 law.
Ill. decision on med-mal caps questioned
“It is critical to preserve strong medical liability reforms among the states so no patient is prevented from getting needed healthcare because of the broken liability system,” American Medical Association President J. James Rohack said in a written statement. Republicans have pushed national liability caps as central to healthcare reform, but only a more-measured version of malpractice reform was included in the healthcare legislation fashioned by congressional Democrats.
A year after Illinois enacted a law that capped noneconomic damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals, a family filed a lawsuit alleging their child suffered brain damage during a Caesarean birth at 234-bed Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park. The lawsuit, targeting Gottlieb as well as the doctor and nurse who principally provided the care, became the test case for the constitutionality of the reforms.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the law violates separation of powers under the state constitution because it substitutes damage caps for a jury's deliberative process. The court struck down previous caps on damages in 1997, and the state's provider community worked for years with lawmakers to fashion and pass a more narrowly constructed version that would pass constitutional muster.
“This decision and its dire repercussions for the healthcare delivery system highlight the critical need for the president and Congress to embrace serious and meaningful medical liability reform as part of healthcare reform,” Illinois Hospital Association President Maryjane Wurth said in a written statement.
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