Groups Concerned About Health Care Oppose H.R. 2366, a Sneak Attack on Patient’s Medical Malpractices Remedies

Letter to the United States House of Representatives from Americans for Democratic Action, Center on Disability and Health, Communications Workers of America, Consumer Federation of America, Families USA Foundation, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Gray Panthers, National CItizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, National Council of Senior Citizens, National Education Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Public Citizen, S.T.O.P. — Safe Tables Our Priority, United Food and Commercial Workers, US PIRG, Violence Policy Center

February 15, 2000

Dear Representative:

We are writing to urge your opposition to H.R. 2366, the misnamed “Small Business Liability Reform Act,” when it is considered by the House of Representatives later this week. In reality, this bill should be called the “Medical Malpractice Protection Act.”

H.R. 2366’s provisions severely limit the compensation patients and their families can receive when they are killed or injured by medical malpractice by a doctor or medical corporation with fewer than 25 employees.

The bill limits punitive damages, even those designed to compensate for egregiously incompetent or malicious conduct, to the lesser of three times compensatory damages (for medical bills or lost wages) or $250,000. For example, in a currently pending case, a Virginia orthopedic surgeon fraudulently claimed injectable aloe vera was a cure for cancer. In order to bilk his patient out of thousands of dollars, he conned a desperate husband and father into relying upon this treatment instead of seeking the standard chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, hastening his death. Under this bill, not only would victims’ compensation be significantly reduced, but our communities would be endangered because H.R. 2366 would shield misbehaving medical providers from punitive damage awards sizeable enough to deter their malicious behavior.

The bill also eliminates joint liability of multiple wrongdoers for non-economic losses (such as loss of fertility, loss of a limb, loss of a child, permanent disfigurement, or continuing severe pain). This would leave consumers without full compensation for their injuries when one or more offenders cannot pay their share of the award, essentially shifting the burden of the losses from those who committed the harm to the innocent injured person.

H.R. 2366 severely weakens the rights of injured patients to be fairly and fully compensated. Please oppose H.R. 2366.

Sincerely,

Americans for Democratic Action
Center on Disability and Health, Communications Workers of America
Consumer Federation of America
Families USA Foundation
Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
Gray Panthers
National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
National Council of Senior Citizens, National Education Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
Parents Against Tired Truckers
Public Citizen
S.T.O.P. — Safe Tables Our Priority
United Food and Commercial Workers
US PIRG
Violence Policy Center