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Proposed Alternatives To Malpractice Litigation Threaten Right to Jury Trial

Even when medical malpractice occurs and causes serious injury and death, a lawsuit rarely follows. When a lawsuit is filed, that generally results in an out of court settlement, or a jury trial if the case goes all the way to court. However, there’s an alternative being proposed by Ohio Representative Jim Butler that would change the way medical malpractice claims are handled. His “comprehensive medical reform” would create a mandatory, binding administrative bureaucracy that draws some of its ideas from worker compensation regulations. Unlike the worker compensation system, however, which does not require a worker to prove their employer negligently caused his or her injury, Rep. Butler’s proposal would force injured patients to take on the medical establishment and prove negligence to obtain compensation.

This new alternative would affect medical malpractice attorneys and limit what they can do for clients, and greatly limit the options an injured party would have as the victim of medical malpractice by a doctor or other healthcare professional. What is most astounding is Butler’s proposal takes away the right to a trial by jury and replaces it with a review process that’s controlled by physicians. It will also dictates how much compensation patients who have been injured by negligent doctors receive, and places strict limits on compensation that will be inadequate in most cases.

This is not the first time medical malpractice lawyers in Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas have had to speak up and fight back against this kind of outrage. The goal of malpractice litigation is to present the victim’s case to a jury and allow that jury to decide whether the medical professional was negligent. The jury can then also recommend a level of compensation that is believed to be fair and just for the victim. This is the bedrock principle of the American legal system, the best in the world.

Medical malpractice lawyers are available to present the victim’s case in a comprehensive fashion, so the jury has all the information it needs in order to make the best decision in light of the circumstances. Having a review process that’s controlled by physicians instead is asking for problems: it’s the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. The proposal by design will lower the number of cases won and leave people who have been seriously injured by medical negligence without any recourse, and prevents a qualified medical malpractice lawyer to help them receive fair compensation.

There are other states that have alternative medical dispute resolution programs, such as Iowa, but these programs are different from what Rep. Butler is proposing in that they are not mandatory. If a patient chooses to use alternative dispute resolution for his or her case there is nothing wrong with that, but the problem with Rep. Butler’s proposal is the patient never gets a choice. It takes away a patient’s right to a fair trial, and puts their fate in the hands of physicians who are being asked to turn against one of their own.

Patient safety and quality of care should be the most important concerns for every physician and medical professional. Because the system requires physicians to go against people they know and work with, the risk of a patient who has truly been injured not getting a fair decision and judgment for rises. The victim is denied proper representation as well, which is a slippery slope toward the loss of further legal rights.