LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Families of victims of medical negligence gathered Monday to urge voters to support a political effort for greater patient safety protections.
Carmen Pack – a mom who says her two children were killed due to medical negligence – and Annette Ramirez, a South Bay mother who lost her arms and legs due to infection after surgery, both say passing Proposition 46 will prevent other families from suffering similar tragedies.
Supporters say Proposition 46 creates greater accountability for medical negligence by indexing a 38-year-old cap on damages for inflation and detecting and deterring physicians’ over-prescribing and substance abuse.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was among several officials on hand to endorse the Yes on 46 campaign, which released its first Spanish language television ad featuring Pack whose husband Bob is the author of Prop. 46.
The Pack’s children, Troy, 10, and Alana, 7, were killed by intoxicated driver who had been recklessly prescribed narcotics by multiple doctors at the same Kaiser hospital.
According to the Packs, they were unable to hold doctors legally accountable because of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Passed in 1975, MICRA places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.
“If your loved one is killed by medical negligence, no matter how serious or egregious and it’s a child who dies, there’s no wage loss or medical bills, you won’t get an attorney,” said Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog.
Court says the initiative would raise the existing cap on damages to $1.1 million, giving children and seniors who cannot demonstrate lost wages as a result of their injuries a chance to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their mistakes.
Opponents say the passage of Prop. 46 could raise healthcare costs and invite increased litigation. They contend that the initiative was written and funded by trial lawyers seeking to make millions from more lawsuits.
“There would be, certainly, an increase in defensive medicine if this initiative passes,” said cardiologist Sion Roy of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. “What that would do is cost a California family of four about $1,000 annually and it would reduce access to care because of these increased costs.”
But Court says malpractice costs represent a small fraction of the cost of healthcare.
“There’s really no impact on healthcare costs,” Court said.
If passed, Prop. 46 would require doctors to be randomly drug tested. Doctors would also be required to check a patient’s drug history on a database before prescribing certain powerful medications.