Readers of our Oregon medical malpractice blog are likely aware of a new law enacted earlier this year allowing parties to malpractice claims to settle through mediation before filing suit. The new law, which is set to go into effect in 2014, has been hailed by many as significant tort reform. However, a national group has recently raised concerns over the new law regarding its potential to protect negligent doctors.
According to the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, the law has the potential to hurt public safety. The group believes the law will help bad doctors escape a past littered with claims of malpractice and negligence. The potential problem has to do with a current lack of a reporting requirement of claims settled through mediation to the national database of malpractice claims.
Victims of hospital staff negligence and malpractice are often able to settle their lawsuits outside of the courtroom. Even if settlement is reached in a case, it must be reported to a national database. The database compiles information on malpractice suits so that hospitals, states and other medical facilities can review the records of doctors from out of state. Under the new Oregon law, cases that are resolved through mediation without a formal lawsuit being filed would prevent the acts of malpractice from being reported. This would essentially help bad doctors with a history of malpractice move around without proper screening by their future employers.
The head of the advocacy group said physicians who get in trouble tend to move around. The new law would prevent adequate screening and place future patients at potential risk. He is calling for a requirement that mediation payouts be reported to the national database just as medical malpractice settlements are currently reported. A top health adviser for Oregon's governor said the law "was never an attempt to circumvent the databank process." He said the governor agrees doctors need to be held accountable for their acts of malpractice, and that his office is working to reach a middle ground on the issue. While both sides continue to work out the issues related to the new law, Oregon patients continue to suffer from acts of negligence and medical malpractice. Victims injured due to malpractice can contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn about their legal rights under the current and future malpractice laws.
Source: The Oregonian, "Oregon's new medical mediation law helps bad doctors, national group says," Nick Budnick, Sept. 10, 2013