Proposed law puts spotlight on increasing malpractice costs
Lawmakers in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have introduced a new measure that would create a state fund to help treat children suffering from neurological injuries at delivery. Maryland would be the fourth state to create such a fund, following Virginia, Florida and New York.
The law would require hospitals, obstetric and gynecological practices, and malpractice insurers to pay annual fees toward the birth injury fund. Families could then receive money from the fund to pay medical bills, supplement lost income and cover other costs associated with treating birth injuries.
The new law comes on the heels of several court verdicts awarding tens of millions of dollars to families with children who suffered birth injuries. Some of these judgments have been reduced or thrown out, but others have cost hospitals like Johns Hopkins Hospital and MedStar Harbor Hospital more than $20 million per judgment.
Part of the problem, doctors claim, is that medical malpractice suits can be leveled even when there was no negligence on the part of the doctor or hospital involved. As mothers deliver later in life, the risk of complications in childbirth increase, leading to unavoidable problems and injuries. The fund will provide a way for parents to receive support without burdening hospitals with unsustainable lawsuit costs.
The proposed law has detractors on both sides of the issue. Trial lawyers like Michael Bennett, founder of the Coalition for Patients’ Rights, believe the fund will “remove accountability and thereby increase likelihood of negligence.” They believe a better solution is for hospitals to take steps to improve oversight and care and prevent incidents of negligence before they happen.
With the new law in place, the burden would fall onto families to apply to the fund and provide proof of the birth injury in question. An administrative law judge would then determine the child’s eligibility for compensation. Families would still have the opportunity to sue if it was believed that a doctor or hospital acted maliciously in the delivery process.
In addition to patients’ rights concerns, some Maryland hospitals are hesitant to support the fund. MedStar Health, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Anne Arundel Medical Center all say they need more time to review the bill and it’s impact. One concern is that the fund is simply a superficial solution, and that medical liability costs must be reduced while still compensating injured families.
The new law is scheduled for a hearing later in February 2014. The attorneys at Mallon & McCool, LLC, have experience representing families who have suffered due to birth injuries. They help their clients build a case to secure financial compensation when the negligence of a doctor or hospital results in harm being done to a parent or child during delivery. They encourage anyone considering filing a birth injury claim to contact them at their Baltimore offices.