Maryland malpractice awards have medical community on alert

Maryland malpractice awards have medical community on alert

Two recent cases in the Baltimore area underscore the price that jurors put on compensating victims of medical malpractice for their losses, and that has left the area medical community worried.

We wrote about one of the cases recently. In that case, the family of a baby suffered a brain injury after medical staff did not promptly perform a Caesarean section, the jury ruled and awarded a $55 million judgment to the family. He was born with cerebral palsy at the hospital. The state cap is $30 million in such cases, but the jurors found the case worthy of the larger verdict.

In the second instance, a jury ruled in favor of a couple from Glen Burnie, Maryland, awarding them $21 million after their son was born with cerebral palsy at an area hospital. He is now 9.

Now, Maryland doctors and hospitals are concerned that sympathy is outweighing science in these cases and, at the same time, setting precedents for future jurors to follow. The expensive verdicts could raise the cost of malpractice insurance, which could create higher medical costs for patients, they fear.

In each case, hospital officials said their centers were not at fault and will appeal.

Advocates for patients said the awards are not unreasonable. After all, these plaintiffs will need a lifetime of care.

Doctors and hospitals said they fear more lawsuits, with patients and their families encouraged by the recent verdicts. One Maryland general surgeon said it is not uncommon for doctors who work in rural areas as he does to send patients with more complex cases to larger facilities out of fear of a lawsuit. The cost of malpractice insurance could be so high that some doctors leave some locations and abandon some specialties.

A report prepared in 2004 by the group Public Citizen said there is no evidence that malpractice costs drive doctors out of an area.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, Doctors, hospitals concerned about hefty malpractice awards,” Andrea K. Walker, Aug. 4, 2012

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