Written by attorney Bobby L. Bollinger Jr.

NC Senate: You Can No Longer Sue For Emergency Room Malpractice

On March 2, 2011 the NC Senate passed a Medical Negligence reform bill by a vote of 36-13. (NC Senate Bill 33) The bill now moves to the House where the new Republican majority is four votes short of a veto-proof margin. This bill means that there can be no actionable medical negligence committed in an Emergency Room unless the doctor or nurse who does it is drunk or stoned when he is treating the patient. The doctors and nurses in the ER (and the hospital that hired them) will have no legal responsibility for their preventable professional mistakes, even if they kill someone by accident. They will only be responsible if they are drunk or stoned, or they intended to hurt the patient. For all other doctors in the state, a damage cap will apply. (The Surgeons and OB/GYN doctors apparently did not contribute enough to the campaigns of the Republicans who pushed this Bill. Surgeons and other doctors can still be held responsible for professional negligence. Next time they should give the Republicans more campaign money so they can get immunity too.) If your healthy breast or healthy leg or your good kidney are mistakenly removed by a surgeon, the cap on your damages for that loss of an organ is $500,000. A person who has no wages at the time of the injury----a stay at home mom, or a kid or a college student or a retired person---- is limited to $500,000 no matter how bad the injury -- even if death occurs. If the negligent surgeon kills your kid, the max you can get is $500,000. Unless it happened in the ER. Then you get zero for your kid's life. Remember, the ER is no longer responsible if it kills your kid. Or anyone. Period. Think twice about taking your loved ones to an ER in North Carolina after this Bill becomes the law. You know what is going to happen. Incompetent or sub par doctors from all over the USA will be enticed to come here and do ER work in North Carolina if this bill becomes law, because they will not be held responsible for their mistakes! What a great deal! For them---but not for the patients. Heck, in a couple of years, you may not even find an ER doc who speaks English fluently. It won't matter, because he will not be responsible for his professional mistakes. We will be the only state in the Union to allow emergency room docs to get a free pass on professional negligence. And the ER is where a large percentage of medical malpractice occurs. Statistics from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in 2008, you were more likely to be killed by medical malpractice in NC than you were to be killed by breast cancer, car wrecks, murder or manslaughter. Combined. Something like 4000 people died that year in NC from medical malpractice. So, of course, the Republican solution to all these deadly and preventable medical mistakes is to punish the victims or their survivors. Yes, let's address medical malpractice by preventing victims from suing the ER docs that caused the injury, and to limit what the victims can get if the doc that did the harm is not an ER doctor. It boggles my mind that supposedly educated legislators could support this. But it is politics----now is their golden moment to pay back the NC Chamber and the NC Medical Society for all the campaign contributions they got from those organizations and their members. "We will do away with personal responsibility for those doctors, since they gave us a lot of campaign money." If an ER doctor next year kills your spouse or child or mom and you are infuriated to learn that there is no recourse against the doctor or the hospital, then you should thank the Republicans in the State Senate and State House for taking away your rights.

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