Two mothers whose lives were forever changed due to medical negligence had a strong message for the United States Senate: don’t limit the rights of innocent victims to receive justice for their injuries.
Last Wednesday, Public Citizen moderated a briefing for Senate staffers to examine the impact of so-called medical malpractice “reform” legislation making its way through Congress. Victims of medical wrongdoing and experts discussed how H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act” would eliminate rights and threaten patient safety.
Evilyn from Illinois (we are only using first names), described a series of negligent events at the hands of her newborn daughter’s medical team which resulted in her breathing tube catching fire during surgery. Thankfully, her daughter survived, but suffers brain injury and has permanent scars on her face, arm, and legs.
When Adriana from Virginia was four months pregnant, she suffered from swelling in her eye’s retinas. Because she was pregnant, the doctor said that injections weren’t a safe option for her or her baby and instead recommended a low-powered laser treatment. When the procedure began, the doctor did not realize that she was using a high power laser until Adriana’s eyes began to burn. Adriana is now legally blind in her left eye.
Unfortunately, tragic stories like these are common. Yet, the insurance
industry continues to lobby hard to limit a patient’s right to seek justice in court. That’s why they support H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” The bill is designed to override some state laws and impose severe federal limits on the ability of medical malpractice victims to seek justice in court. Wednesday’s briefing discussed how this bill and similar legislation harms the rights of injured patients while doing nothing to address the problem of medical errors that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
For Adriana and Evilyn, the mistakes that the doctors made were careless and preventable. They and their families were able to receive justice, although their lives will never be the same. But it is highly likely that justice would have been denied for them if H.R. 1215 had been law at the time.
After the briefing, both families met with Sen. Dick Durbin who continues to champion tirelessly for the rights of consumers and their families.
Public Citizen is at the forefront of fighting against legislation that would restrict a person’s right to seek justice and compensation for injuries obtained through of no fault of their own. The bill, which was narrowly passed in committee, will be considered by the entire House of Representatives in the coming weeks. We will continue to meet with Members of Congress and urge them to vote against this harmful piece of legislation that puts put profits over patients.