A recent annual report by the American College of Emergency Physicians ranked Kentucky 47th in the nation in terms of quality of care, access to care, public health, disaster preparedness and medical liability.
The ranking is actually worse than where we were in 2009, when the last report was issued and Kentucky was reported to be 44th on the list. While even the best hospitals in the country only received a B- score, indicating there is a great deal of room for improvement all around, Kentucky received a D rating.
At the Shelton Law Group, our medical malpractice lawyers in Louisville understand that the poor ranking had a lot to do with issues surrounding medical liability. Specifically, there is concern that unqualified medical experts are being allowed to testify in medical liability cases.
The other issue has at least partially to do with Kentucky’s geography, particularly patients in remote and mountainous regions. Getting people to the right place quickly enough has often proved challenging. That may be improving. In 2008, there were just three designated trauma centers in the state. Today, there are 11.
On the legislative front, there continues a troubling push to curb people’s ability to seek compensation for injurious medical errors. Such proposed measures have been unsuccessful in the past, but recent reports indicate these efforts are gaining steam.
A new coalition of powerful health care and business groups – including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Hospital Association – are pressuring the General Assembly to establish medical review panels that would “remedy against meritless medical malpractice lawsuits.” The Care First Kentucky Coalition said a member of each of its associations would serve as a medical expert on each panel.
While this may not seem unreasonable on the surface, bear in mind that this is the job of the courts. There is a high standard of proof in medical malpractice cases, and if a claim is indeed meritless, it is quickly weeded out by the presiding judge in the form of a summary judgment in favor of the defense – before the case ever gets to the trial phase before a jury.
Requiring that each and every case first be reviewed by a panel of medical professionals before it ever goes to a judge will simply create additional hurdles to overcome for those making legitimate claims. And make no mistake: The vast majority of these claims are legitimate.
Last year, a similar measure would have proposed review panels in malpractice, negligence and abuse cases against nursing homes. The AARP strongly advocated against the bill, and thankfully, it ultimately failed. The group said it would mobilize staunch opposition to any similar measure proposed this year. A spokesman for the organization said there is no evidence that quality of care for nursing home residents – or other patients, for that matter – has been improved. Therefore, it makes little sense to pass laws that will make it harder to be compensated for injuries or wrongful deaths stemming from medical mistakes.
The coalition, meanwhile, contends that such a measure would “make the state more attractive to employers.” Of course, they fail to mention that such action would come at the expense of those who might be harmed by those who fail to deliver quality care.
If you are interested in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Louisville, contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Kentucky at The Shelton Law Group. Call 1-888-761-7204 or visit www.robsheltonlaw.com for a free consultation.