NC Senate -- in Rushed Process -- Votes Today on Legalizing Negligence

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Former Committee Chair Calls Bill “Extreme” as Poll by NC Advocates for Justice Shows Broad Public Opposition

A bill that would legalize negligence in hospital emergency rooms heads to a floor vote in the NC Senate today, despite objections from supporters of injured patients, the NC Advocates for Justice and political veterans that the legislation is dangerous and that the process has been rushed.

Senate Bill 33 -- sponsored by Sens. Tom Apodaca, Harry Brown and Bob Rucho -- sets an arbitrary cap on medical malpractice damages for disfigurement, mutilation, loss of limb, paralysis, pain, suffering and death. The one-size-fits-all cap on damages would be especially devastating for injured children, homemakers, and the elderly, who have limited economic damages, according to NCAJ.

The bill would also provide immunity for negligence in the ER. Instead of the current legal duty to follow their own professional standards, a hospital or doctor would only be liable if the injured patient proves “gross negligence,” which the law defines as “intentional wrongdoing or deliberate misconduct affecting the safety of others.” No patient will be able to meet that high standard, unless the patient can prove that the ER doctor acted with malice or was impaired by alcohol or drugs.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, former chairman of the J-1 committee, called SB 33 an “extreme” bill that “creates tremendous inequities” and would do nothing to control health care costs. Noting that past judiciary committees have taken time to discuss and find the best solutions, Nesbitt added, “I don’t think we did that with this bill.”

Two retired NC Supreme Court Justices, both conservative Republicans, have advised legislators that the proposed cap is “unconstitutional and unnecessary.

The NC Advocates for Justice recently released the results of a statewide poll of 600 registered voters by Hart Research Associates, a nationally respected polling firm, showing 70 to 77 percent of voters oppose immunity for doctors and hospitals in the ER.

There is also a proposal in the state legislature to give doctors who provide emergency services complete immunity when they make a medical mistake that injures a patient. This means ER doctors and some other doctors could not be sued for malpractice in emergency cases. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?

Total Favor - 30%
Total Oppose - 70%

There is also a proposal in the state legislature to give hospitals that provide emergency services complete immunity when they make a medical mistake that injures a patient. This means the hospital could not be sued for malpractice in emergency cases. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?

Total Favor - 23%
Total Oppose - 77%

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that 4,000 patients die and 5,700 patients are permanently injured in North Carolina hospitals every year because of preventable medical mistakes.

For more information, please visit http://www.LetJuriesDecide.com and contact Todd(at)ncaj(dot)com.

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Todd Barlow
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