The Tennessee Medical Association is pushing for a constitutional amendment that would cap non-economic damage awards for medical malpractice cases. Amending the state constitution is no small feat; it requires ratification by a two-thirds vote by two General Assemblies and voter approval thereafter. Needless to say, it’s an uphill battle.

The deluded thinking that leads people to push for caps

Capping non-economic damages is intended to reduce the amount of malpractice lawsuits by making them less attractive to potential claimants. The Tennessean reported, “The state constitutional amendment, which would impose a cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, may be atop the Tennessee Medical Association’s legislative wish list, but it’s a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.”

A solution in search of a problem is a perfect description. A study from the Duke University School of Law published by the National Institutes of Health analyzed jury verdicts for medical malpractice cases. While the research is well worth the read, perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the most relevant) finding was that juries in a blind study awarded similar non-economic damages regardless of whether the claim was for medical malpractice or not.

The non-economic damage cap is a bad idea. Empirical evidence shows that the pros do not outweigh the cons, and punishing bad behavior with large verdicts deters repeat offenders. The system may not be perfect, but it does work. Changing one variable is not a solution; it is merely an effort to protect healthcare providers in a complicated situation.

Medical malpractice tort reform is dangerous

While the TMA is pushing for this new legislation, it is also fighting a rival proposal that would do serious damage to the medical community at large. A non-profit advocacy group called Patients for Fair Compensation is promoting legislation here and in other states that would create a Patients Compensation System (PCS). According to their website, PCS would work in a manner similar to worker’s compensation.

Unfortunately, PCS has serious flaws, and the people who came up with the idea have deep ties to many levels of the healthcare system. We’re covering that story in another post, but suffice it to say that medical malpractice tort reform in Tennessee is a hot button issue at the moment, and one that deserves serious attention.

The victims of medical malpractice deserve all of the rights and protections afforded to them by the justice system. Limiting these rights means limiting compensation for devastating and life altering injuries. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we fight for our clients and work hard to protect their rights. If you need an experienced Tennessee medical malpractice attorney, look no further. Contact us today for a free consultation at our office in Nashville, Gallatin or Knoxville. If you can’t come to us, we will come to you.