Local News

Medical Malpractice Debate Continues At State Legislature

Posted September 13, 2003

— In North Carolina, the battle over medical malpractice awards continues to rage at the General Assembly.

Lexa Hass suffers from a form of jaundice that was misdiagnosed. Her mother, Susan, brought Lexa to the legislature Wednesday as testimony that a cap on medical malpractice awards fails to protect the patient. Virginia, where Lexa was born, has a strict cap on malpractice awards, limiting damages to $900,000. Hass claims her family has medical bills that will cost them $9 million.

"I haven't much experience with disability, but one thing I have learned is that it is very expensive to be disabled and $10,000 a year won't cut it," Susan said.

Trial lawyers and the Coalition for Patients Rights said a cap on medical malpractice claims would punish patients.

"The General Assembly has utterly failed to act on improving patient safety. People are suffering. Patients are at risk," said Marion Smith, of the Coalition for Patients Rights.

Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the committee studying the medical malpractice crisis has not forgotten patients.

"Patients are certainly part of it and we want to hear from them, and we will and we are going at this in as deliberate a manner as we can," he said.

Four bills proposing to increase patient safety have yet to be considered by lawmakers.

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