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

Letter to the United States Senate from Americans for Democratic Action, Center on Disability and Health, Citizens for Corporate Accountability and Individual Rights, Coalition for a Smoke-Free Valley (PA), Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, 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

April 20, 2000

Dear Senator:

Recently, Senate Majority Leader Lott has made public statements that he will bring the Small Business Liability Reform Act (S. 1185), onto the floor around May 1. It is our understanding that he may bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee and bring up the House version of the bill, H.R. 2366, which is being held at the desk. We urge you to oppose either bill should one be brought up for consideration. In reality, these bills should be called the “Medical Malpractice Protection Acts.”

These bills severely limit the compensation patients and their families can receive when they are killed or injured by the medical malpractice of 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 such victims’ compensation be significantly reduced, but our communities would be endangered because the legislation 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.

S.1185 and H.R. 2366 would severely weaken the rights of injured patients to be fairly and fully compensated and we urge you to oppose them.

Sincerely,

Americans for Democratic Action
Center on Disability and Health
Citizens for Corporate Accountability and Individual Rights
Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways
Coalition for a Smoke-Free Valley
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Communications Workers of America
Consumer Federation of America
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
Families USA Foundation
Foudation 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