In a California hospital, a two year old boy is found not breathing and his fingernail beds are turning blue. His mother can hear the code blue being called from the adjacent room where her son was to have an MRI of his left wrist. She runs into the room and sees the frantic staff vigorously performing CPR on his tiny body. They finally get a pulse but not until after severe permanent brain damage is done.
It turns out, he was negligently given an overdose of anesthesia because the doctor thought when the nurse told him the boy’s weight was 29, that she meant 29 kilograms, (64 pounds), but the nurse actually meant he weighed 29 pounds. The doctor wound up giving him too much anesthesia based on the mistake regarding his weight. [The failure to uniformly use the metric system in American hospitals is a topic for another day].
Today, twenty-two years after the critical error he still cannot walk nor talk. In 1999 a jury awarded him the maximum amount of recovery allowed by law for his past and future pain and suffering, $250,000.00. Yes, you read that right, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars. (I did not accidentally leave off some zeros). That law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, went into effect in 1975 and is still in effect today, 42 years later.
In 1975 the average home in Orange County cost $34,000.00. Today it costs 27 times that, $934,000.00. There was no cost of living increase built into that law, commonly referred to as the Medical Insurance Crisis Act, (MICRA).
The real crisis is that the law protects the insurance companies and abandons the victim. It is not the insurance companies that need help. The Doctors Company has more than $4 billion in assets and $1.8 billion in member surplus—the strongest of any national physician-owned medical liability carrier.
You may think you will never be a victim of medical malpractice so you do not concern yourself with this archaic law. But “medical errors” in hospitals and other health-care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States — claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s. The likelihood of you or your family becoming a victim of medical negligence is more likely than not.
In November 2016 California Proposition 46 was rejected by the California voters. The insurance industry spent millions of dollars on TV and radio ad campaigns advising the voters that passing this proposition would be devastating to the public. However, The initiative would have:
- Increased the state’s cap on non-economic damages, (pain and suffering), that can be assessed in medical negligence lawsuits to over $1 million from the current cap of $250,000.
- Required drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board.
- Required the California Medical Board to suspend doctors pending investigation of positive tests and take disciplinary action if the doctor was found impaired while on duty.
- Required health care practitioners to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence.
- Required health care practitioners to consult the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.
It is very difficult to see how these changes would have been devastating to the public, however, it is clear to see how beneficial it was for the doctors and their insurance companies to defeat this long overdue needed change to a 42 year old law.
With hope, and your voice, we can change this law. Contact your local State representative and let him or her know it is their duty to protect their constituents by amending MICRA because the real insurance crisis is the lack of victim’s rights.