Massachusetts Doctors’ Group Wants to Rein in Liability Exposures

February 4, 2009

An advocacy group for Massachusetts doctors said it will offer a bill in the state legislature to eliminate the expanded liability of physicians which was created by two recent court decisions.

The Massachusetts Medical Society said the legislation would eliminate the liability of doctors beyond the physician-patient relationship and establish that physicians cannot be held liable for the loss of chance of a better outcome but only for their negligence which actually causes the death of a patient who has a better than 50 percent chance of survival.

The bill was prompted by two court cases: the December 2007 decision in Coombes v. Florio, which allows claims against physicians by non-patients, and by the July 2008 decision in Matsuyama v. Birnbaum, which held that doctors can be held liable for negligence that reduces a patient’s chance for survival even if the patient’s prospects for recovery were less than 50 percent.

The group is also proposing a second bill designed to curtail tobacco use by prohibiting licensed health care facilities from leasing space or providing services at a site where tobacco products are sold. It would also prohibit licensed health professionals from working in any such facility or from working in places leased within such facilities. The bill is aimed at eliminating the sale of harmful tobacco products sold at health clinics in retail stores, a strong concern expressed by physicians when retail-based health clinics were first proposed for the Commonwealth two years ago.
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Source: The Massachusetts Medical Society

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