All medical needs are not equal
Expecting taxpayers to pay for the consequences of medical negligence is not only outrageous, but it is wrong. And yet, that’s exactly what New Mexico does.
America’s health-care industry has been experiencing growing pains for several decades now. With the ever-evolving technology of today’s world, there are new methods to diagnose a wide variety of health issues. The progress in preventative and diagnostic care could mean that we are healthier now than ever before.
Yet we face many of the same medical dilemmas that we did 25 years ago. Regardless of the most impressive medical equipment, we still have a cold truth that doctors and researchers are human. Part of being human is making mistakes.
Medical mistakes can range in consequence, some results being truly minor while others are more severe. It’s a topic where each separate occurrence happens to be ever so slightly different.
When people file a claim of medical malpractice, they are filing a claim of damage that has occurred for them in an unfair, unforeseen manner. The victim could not have possibly saved for the unexpected medical bills, and that is why some are forced to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The 2006 New Mexico Statutes, Section 41-5-6, states “the aggregate dollar amount recoverable by all persons for or arising from any injury or death to a patient as a result of malpractice shall not exceed six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000) per occurrence.” It also states that this dollar amount does not include the accrued medical costs involving the injury or death, but future medical expenses will not be monetarily compensated either.
What about a mistake during childbirth?
So what happens if the doctor makes a mistake during childbirth? The resulting health problems can plague the newborn child for life. Klumpke’s Palsy, for example, is typically caused by a problem during delivery where the infant’s shoulder catches on the mother’s hip bone. This is called shoulder dystocia, and it may result in a brachial plexus injury involving nerve damage that can lead to Klumpke’s Palsy. While having diabetes or being overweight has been linked to an increase in risk of this injury, the parents have virtually no control to prevent the complication from happening.
The doctor, however, can act quickly and at least prevent the mother and baby from being severely injured, thus minimizing the risk of Klumpke’s Palsy for the child.
If the doctor makes a mistake or somehow fails to identify the problem of shoulder dystocia, and the baby is injured during delivery, the child will have a lifetime of additional medical needs. Under the New Mexico Statutes, Section 41-5-6, this family will not be able to collect monetary compensation to help the child with future surgical or physical therapy costs.
The parents are left to worry whether their child will be able to take care of him or herself after they are gone, and the child is typically placed on Medicaid when the family has runs of money for the excess medical expenses. The child’s medical bills now fall upon taxpayers, even when a specific doctor or group has been held accountable in the court of law for their own errors.
Treating each case the same is ludicrous
The system seems flawed to me. Expecting taxpayers to pay for the consequences of medical negligence is not only outrageous, but it is wrong.
Today’s tough economy already places an immense burden on the average American citizen. By placing a cap on medical malpractice claims, the court system is making two very large mistakes. First and foremost, it is equating all medical malpractice cases to the same playing field. Each case is drastically different, but they are treated the same and the cap of $600,000 remains the same, regardless of the victim’s actual needs.
Second, by having the $600,000 cap in place, the courts are allowing responsibility to essentially “roll-over” into taxpayers’ pockets once the full amount of the cap has been used. It is as if the system is saying that a doctor or hospital can only be $600,000 wrong, and anything beyond that is somehow the American public’s fault.
The concept of treating each (wildly different) case the same, of already having a number in place of how much financial assistance the family will need, is ludicrous.
Amanda Whitman is an avid writer and a recent college graduate. She hopes to impact the world in a positive manner by encouraging a love for learning through her writing.
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