Proposed House Bill Limits Medical Malpractice in Emergency Room
Each day, emergency rooms are flooded with a multitude of people suffering injuries ranging from non-emergency medical conditions to life threatening medical conditions. Emergency room physicians rely upon their network of nurses and medical assistants to help evaluate and diagnose medical trauma. On October 24, 2013, the Michigan Legislature heard testimony on HB 4354 better known as: Access to Quality Emergency Care Act. If enacted, this bill could limit personal injury attorneys from bringing medical malpractice claims against hospitals and physicians on behalf of their injured or deceased clients.
HB 4354 states, in part:
“A licensed health care professional…or facility…is not liable in an action for medical malpractice arising out of…emergency room care in an emergency department or obstetrical unit…surgical operating room…radiology department immediately following the evaluation or treatment of patient in emergencydepartment, unless the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the licensed physician’s actions constituted gross negligence.”
Many of the opponents against HB 4345 are people like Natalie Hooker, who suffered from emergency room malpractice. Natalie testified that she almost died from the misjudgment of a treating emergency room physician, who failed to issue an ultrasound after Natalie delivered her child and felt pain in her abdomen. Unfortunately, Natalie’s condition grew worse, her uterus was obliterated by scar tissue, and physicians conducted a hysterectomy. Natalie survived, but will never be able to have children again. This is the primary reason why Natalie and many others strongly oppose HB4345 because they want emergency room physicians to be held accountable for their mistakes.
On the other hand, many of the proponents for HB 4345 were the likes of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians (MCEP), who stressed in their testimony that emergency rooms are now understaffed and overworked. Many physicians (post-residency) flee Michigan because of the level of liability they can potentially face. Consequently, Michigan only retains and recruits physicians (post-residency) at 42% as compared with the national average at 48%. As part of MCEP’s testimony, they introduced the Vice Chief of the Emergency Department for Sinai-Grace Hospital from Detroit, who shared that physicians practicing Emergency medicine are subject to “constant harassment of frivolous lawsuits, depositions, and trials, which makes it unpalatable to practice here.” Further, MCEP demonstrated that states like Georgia and Texas have declining incidents of malpractice in their emergency rooms because of higher retention of physicians and higher standards of proof for proving liability.
Personal injury attorneys deal with some of the worst cases of medical malpractice, where, at times, their clients suffer permanent loss and use of their limbs and even worse death. Clearly, legislators are at a fork in the road. At one fork, it seems that it is in the best interest of the state to retain emergency room physicians that can provide top quality care without being overworked and fear of committing malpractice. At the other fork are those like Natalie Hooker who have large medical bills, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Whichever fork the legislators choose to go down, there will be a clear split amongst patients and physicians in the near future.
By: Fahd Haque, Law Clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C. If you have any questions, please email Fahd Haque at FHaque@mosscolella.com