NC Senate Betrays Children, Elderly, American Values,Or…Hide Yo’ Wife, Hide Yo’ Kids, Hide Yo’ Husband, They Rapin’ Everybody’s Rights Around Here

How much is a voter’s life or abilities worth to the 27 NC GOP and Dem Senators that sponsored SB 33?  No more than $250,000.

I cried driving home from the legislature today. I attended the public hearing on Senate Bill 33 on Medical Liability Reform out of personal interest, not business. I heard and saw a child without limbs, of the death of an elderly mom, about the death of a healthy child, of disfigurement. 

This bill limits the amount awarded in a lawsuit for medical negligence to $250,000. So, question..what hospital do you live near?  Do you trust it?

How many of you have horror stories about experiences in the emergency room? Of a doctor that misdiagnosed your child? Of mixed up medication? Of pain, injury or death – or near-death – because of medical negligence? How many of you or your loved ones narrowly escaped the experience with your life or health?

What if you didn’t escape? The NC Senate gives you a big ol’ middle finger, that’s what.

I once found out that a doctor I was seeing here in Rocky Mount had been found not responsible for the death of a woman who bled to death after a laproscopy because….get this…although he WAS negligent, he had provided care standard to what can be expected for the economics and population of our area. Believe it or not, law already says exactly that. Nice to know we are just as important as people in the Triangle or Charlotte, ain’t it? But this bill makes it even worse and more appalling.

Unfortunately, although I switched doctors (to Nash OB-GYN and Dr. Collins and love them), I did not know my cousin was seeing this one. Her delivery was similar to my first in a Charlotte hospital; sadly, her doctor’s response was completely different and pain, suffering, and medical expenses still occur today, three years later.

SB 33 does several things that I find disgusting. The first, and biggest, is to cap awards for noneconomic damages due to medical malpractice at $250,000. That includes pain, suffering..PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT, DISFIGUREMENT, and ANY OTHER NONPECUNIARY, COMPENSATORY DAMAGES.

How does anyone who supports this bill look their elderly mother in the eye? Their children or grandchildren? Their spouse? THEIR VOTERS?

Hypothetical conversation… Parent: “Dear Senator – my four-year-old son was misdiagnosed in the ER and lost both arms, both legs, and his nose. We have many more surgeries ahead and he may never be able to hold a decent job or go through a day without pain. Our medical bills are impoverishing us. He will be a burden on the system without damages to sustain him.”

Senator: “To hell with you. You should have been rich so he would never need to work anyway. Here is $250,000 dollars, which should support him for about 10 years if he eats grits and cheese. Now go away and stop asking for handouts.”

Parent: “But, Mr. Senator, it will cost us $225,o00 to bring a lawsuit! We can’t afford to do that if the most in damages we would end up with is $25,000. We couldn’t miss work to go to trial! And other parents will never know that their child is in danger, and the people who did this will never experience consequences for their actions and might do the same again!”

Senator: “Doctors are above consequences. That’s why I am one.”

This might seem far-fetched, except I met little Ethan today – who had been perfectly healthy but got sick one day and went to the ER and who has no arms, legs, or nose because of a misdiagnosis and faces so, so, many surgeries. I heard Laurie Sanders tell how her 6-year-old went to the hospital for the first time and was diagnosed with croup and admitted. How they put him on anti-anxiety meds because he thrashed so much when he couldn’t breathe. How they messed up his medication and released him despite her protests.

He started having trouble breathing by the time he got home. They turned around and went back. He was put on oxygen and seemed fine. They took the mask off and in a few minutes he started wheezing and panicking. He reached for his mother, but the nurses dragged her out of the room before she could catch his hands. Five minutes later he was dead.

She heard the defense lawyer tell her lawyer, “Come on, now. A kindergartener has no economic value.”

Apparently the GOP and Dem Senators who sponsored this bill agree.

Let’s take a look at who supported the bill today:

  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NC
  • NC Chamber of Commerce (I still haven’t figured out why he cared.)
  • NC Friends of Midwives
  • NC College of Emergency Physicians
  • NC Medical Society

Now, who was against it?

  • NC Advocates for Justice
  • Joe Knott, trial lawyer, ultra-conservative Republican, once ran for Attorney General as GOP
  • Coalition for Patient Safety
  • Lawyer reading letter on behalf of Kim Brown, who had both breast removed completely for invasive breast cancer, then was told it was a mistake – the doctor had dictated into the wrong file. (I wonder what happened to the woman who DID have cancer?)
  • AARP
  • Martha Walden, whose mother wandered out of her nursing home after not receiving her medication and died of hypothermia – the facility failed to do a bed check so she wasn’t found until 3:30 am on Christmas Eve
  • Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care
  • Heather and Chris, and their young son, Ethan

Notice anything? Like the fact that the ones who support it represent money and special interests, while those who oppose it represent people who are vulnerable, hurting, and voiceless and vote? God, I am crying again writing this….

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me…” (Matt. 25:45)

Supporters claim that this bill will bring down the cost of health care. Seriously? I’m sorry, guys, but you are tackling the wrong problem here. Look at this:

  • 4,000 people in NC die due to preventable medical errors every year
  • over 5,000 people in NC suffer disabilities as a result of medical error
  • less than 500 lawsuits are filed a year (465 last year), less than 5% of those injured

Umm.. so I have a 1 in 5 chance of being harmed by medical care in an NC hospital, more people in NC die every year from medical malpractice than from manslaughter, breast cancer, auto accidents, prostate cancer and murder COMBINED and only 500 people sue a year – and you are going to tell me that health cost are too high because people ask for help and justice????

Here’s a novel idea – maybe health care costs are too high because the INSURANCE COMPANIES CHARGE DOCTORS TOO MUCH for insurance against something that doesn’t happen more often than it does. How about supporting that one, Mr. Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

In this 2009 article, Insurers inflated med mal crisis: Report, we learn that:

“Yet, the insurers’ incurred losses fell 48% to $1.35 billion in 2006 from $2.6 billion in 2003, Mr. Angoff reported. Nine insurers in the group reported drops of more than 50% of incurred losses, and two reported reductions of more than 80%, Mr. Angoff’s report noted….

“In addition, between 2003 and year-end 2006, the insurers’ surplus grew 43%, the report stated….

“But premiums continued to rise sharply from 2000 through 2006, Mr. Angoff noted. Insurers reported $2.38 billion of net written premiums in 2006, a 24% increase from $1.92 billion of net written premiums in 2000.”

SOLUTION #1 – CAP THE AMOUNT THAT INSURANCE COMPANIES CAN CHARGE FOR MALPRACTICE INSURANCE, instead of how much restitution is due to victims.

BONUS – You won’t be taking away our right to have a JURY OF OUR PEERS to decide. Or have you thrown that ideal out right along with our right to life, having put a higher value on the life and happiness of doctors than on the vast majority of Americans.

As Republican lawyer Joe Knott pointed out, our Constitution states that all of us are equal, and no group is so much more equal that they should be protected from their folly at the cost of others. Mr. Knott objected to the bill on Christian grounds, calling it “immoral and unjust” and contrary to the idea of America and its principals. He said, “Your life, limb, eyesight, paralysis – some small group will determine what these are worth” if this bill passes.

Some claim that “defensive medicine” drives up the cost of health care – that doctors do unnecessary procedures just to cover their butt. Ummm…I’m okay with extra tests to make sure my child is NOT DYING. I will pay for those extra tests out of my own pocket, if I have to sell my house and car to do it. I have requested them in the past. And because my doctor CARES and IS AWESOME, I also trust that she will already be doing everything she should, because she cares and listens.

So, Mr. Physician Association Lobbyist, Your risk of being sued is 500 times in 9,000 cases and my chances of being hurt or dying are 1 in 5 and you’re the one worried? Here’s an idea of how to protect yourself – DO YOUR FRIGGIN’ JOB AND LISTEN TO YOUR PATIENTS AND YOUR NURSES.

And if the legislature is so intent on sticking its nose in, it can help you by concentrating on the ROOT of the problem instead of the end result. There is a little-known maxim highly applicable to fiscal responsibility that our Senators may, unfortunately, have never heard: An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure.

SOLUTION #2 – TAKE STEPS TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF INSTANCES OF MEDICAL MISTAKES, instead of removing punitive damages for making them.

BONUS – You will cut costs for our state and nation by significantly reducing the financial burdens on our social services system. SSI, Medicaid and Medicare, Food Stamps, cash assistance for disabled, etc., etc. – all services that victims who cannot work and the families who lose breadwinners must access to survive.

How could our legislators implement this solution?

  • Reduce the number of hours ER and hospital physicians and nurses are allowed to work in a row and set a minimum number of hours between shifts – studies show that many errors happen near the end of shift when workers are tired.
  • Increase protection for nurses who speak up to doctors about concerns about the prescribed treatment based on their observations of the patient, and for nurses who report medical negligence or mistakes.
  • Accelerate the adoption of technoloy like electronic health records, identity verification, and record flags.

Some things in Senate Bill 33, I can understand. I agree that ER staff should have the same kind of immunity that other emergency personnel have in ACUTE, emergency situations. I think that the idea to require payments over $75,000 be disbursed over time instead of in a lump payment makes sense, allowing insurance companies more stability and accurate budget projections. I am not against the total bill.

But for a legislature to set a monetary value on every single citizen’s life, instead of our peers making case-by-case decisions? Sounds like big government to me.

To cater to insurance companies and special interest groups instead of representing the best interests of your voters? Sounds like a great reason to vote you out next time to me.

To address the end result of the problem instead of the causes? Sounds like irresponsible fiscal policy to me.

I am giving the bill sponsors – Senators Apodaca, Brown, Rucho;  Bingham, Blake; Brock, Clary, Davis, Goolsby, Gunn, Harrington, Hise, Hunt, Jackson, Jones, Mansfield, Meredith, Pate, Preston, Purcell, Rabon, Rouzer, Soucek, Stevens, Tillman, Tucker, and Walters – the benefit of the doubt, that they are not heartless, greedy, ignorant of basic health care statistics, or dismissive of and sneering at their voters. I am assuming that they had not fully thought through the repercussions of logical fallacies of this bill and that the public hearing and statistics they heard will cause them to consider parts of the bill more closely. I am going to believe this right now – EVEN ABOUT THE ONES WHO ARE PHYSICIANS THEMSELVES.

But I will be watching, and I will be sharing, and I will be protesting this bill. And if it passes in the end, I will be changing the way I vote.

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~ by gypsyjonga on February 18, 2011.

4 Responses to “NC Senate Betrays Children, Elderly, American Values,Or…Hide Yo’ Wife, Hide Yo’ Kids, Hide Yo’ Husband, They Rapin’ Everybody’s Rights Around Here”

  1. I am the one whose mother died of hypothermia. Thank you for your well informed and passionate information about this bill. There were definitely some compelling stories presented on Thursday.

    • Marty, your story was heart-breaking and your testimony so important. Thank you for sharing it and for advocating for everyone’s mothers as you honor your own.

  2. i took my mother to nash general, they diagnosed her with the flu. I knew better, I had seen my mother with the flu. After protesting and begging nash general please look at something else, they told me I was overreacting. I drove mom to Wa…ke med. They tested her for 2 hours, and told me the same thing. I broke down in tears and pleaded with them and told them I knew it was not the flu. Thank god they took pity on me and believed me and checked her spine for fluids. After 12 hours of testing, they found she had meningititus and put both of us in quarentine and gave her the meds she needed to live!

  3. As a lawyer who represents injured victims and a member of the NCAJ, I was so impressed by your research and arguments against this bill. You are giving me hope that there are other concerned citizens out there who will stand up against this and let the legislature know that this is harmful to the rights of everyone. I’m going to share this on our Facebook page to help get the word out. Very inspirational!!!!

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