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Kentucky legislature considers medical tort reform

Kentucky's nursing homes are sued more often than those of any other state. While some blame a litigious atmosphere fostered by judgment-friendly juries, more often lawsuits are the result of real medical malpractice issues: failure to diagnose, mismanagement of care and even wrongful death caused by negligence on the part of healthcare workers.

A recent bill proposed in the Senate would establish a three-physician Medical Review Panel that would examine malpractice cases before allowing them to proceed. The decision would be non-binding but admissible in court, possibly influencing juries on their verdicts. Currently, 16 states have some form of medical review panel to screen lawsuits before they reach the courtroom.

Kentucky does not place a limit on damages awarded for pain and suffering, so nursing homes can be sued for almost any amount. Supporters of the medical review panel idea claim that weeding out frivolous claims would help nursing homes save money and manage funds more efficiently. They claim that the review panel will save the tax payers money, as well, since 65 percent of Kentucky's nursing home residents are receiving Medicaid.

However, restricting the rights of individuals to take action against those who have injured them is not only unconstitutional but also encourages greed and profit before safety. Unless patients have unrestricted access to the remedies prescribed by law, nursing home abuse and neglect could become rampant as facilities look for ways to cut costs and maximize profit. Allowing victims of nursing home neglect or abuse to consult with a medical malpractice attorney and determine if they have grounds for a lawsuit is a right that many feel should never be violated.

Source: The Richmond Register, "Blessed be the caretakers; woe unto those who frivolously sue them," Jim Waters, March 18, 2013

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