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What H.R. 1215 would really mean for malpractice victims

Even the simplest surgical procedures are often intimidating. However, the doctor likely reassured you that surgery was your best option -- or even, perhaps your only option -- and that your health and well-being would improve. When you trusted your health care professional and decided to undergo surgery, you expected to feel better as you recover from your procedure, and not worse.

You placed your confidence in your surgeon's conscientiousness and training, but now you're stuck living with the mistake he or she made. At best, you could be facing mounting medical bills and months of painful recovery time to repair or address the mistake the surgeon made. At worst, you could awaken paralyzed or with a traumatic brain injury that forever changes your life. It certainly doesn't seem fair or right that you, or others in similar situations, should have to pay the heavy price for someone else's negligent error.

H.R. 1215 -- the "Protecting Access to Care Act" bill

Unfortunately, for those who suffer injury because of doctors and surgeons' mistakes, a new bill in the works seeks to cap the amount of damages that victims of medical negligence are eligible to receive. Called the "Protecting Access to Care" act, Congress aims to limit the monetary recompense for non-economic damages that juries can award victims of medical malpractice to $250,000. Proponents claim capping these awards will lead to a decrease in medical malpractice insurance rates, which they say in turn means more money to spend on patient care.

What it potentially means for victims of medical malpractice

Opponents, though, point out the drawbacks the bill will bring for victims of medical malpractice and their families. First, and foremost, is the paltry amount; while $250,000 may seem like a lot of money, would you trade it for, say, your short-term memory or your ability to ever hug a loved one again if surgeon's negligence left you paralyzed? In a worst-case scenario, if a parent loses a child through malpractice, no amount of "non-economic damages" could make up for that loss, yet this bill would reduce that life to a maximum value of $250,000.

Another consideration is the doctors' and surgeons' liability and accountability, or lack thereof. In addition to victim compensation, a key function of the medical malpractice system is to give appropriate incentive for health care professionals to provide safe, competent and efficient care. This bill could, some allege, lead to an increase in medical errors due to sloppy care, if doctors and other health care providers know that they might have to pay a maximum of "only" $250,000 for any mistakes.

What to consider next

You might have concerns and questions regarding an injury you or a loved one suffered due to medical negligence or doctor error. A New Mexico attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases can offer insight and counsel into your unique situation and any options and legal avenues available to you.

In addition, you might simply have questions about the proposed "Protecting Access to Care Act" damages cap and its potential effects on you. Since many medical malpractice attorneys are keeping their eye on H.R. 1215 and it moves through Congress, he or she could potentially address your concerns.

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