On Wednesday, thousands of physicians were scheduled to descend upon Capitol Hill to voice support for medical liability reform to address the rise in medical malpractice premiums.
These physicians will be lobbying for a federal cap on non-economic damages. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), an independent medical student organization, expressed concern that this approach may prevent just, effective, patient-centered reform.
Much of the debate has centered on the potential effectiveness of caps on non-economic damage awards to reduce premium increases. AMSA opposes any proposal that involves caps alone; instead, reform should focus on a more comprehensive approach that includes reducing medical errors and increasing oversight of the insurance industry.
“There is little doubt that the rising costs of medical liability insurance affects the professional decisions of health care providers, but the causes of high medical malpractice rates are more complex than jury award size,” said Dr. Brian Palmer, AMSA national president. “As future physicians, AMSA believes priorities for reform should include a system to share the potentially life-saving information learned through medical error reporting and fostering better communication between physicians and patients.”
AMSA believes that solutions to medical malpractice must be determined in collaboration among physicians, plaintiff and defense attorneys, patients and other vested parties.
“Instead of ‘injuring’ the patient twice, we need to focus on preventing the mistakes,” continued Palmer. “By investigating and addressing factors that contribute to errors in clinical care, we are taking the first step in protecting patients’ rights and improving medical care.”
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