Local News

Medical Malpractice Becoming Hot Topic In Legislature

Posted September 13, 2003 11:27 a.m. EDT

— There is a fight brewing in the state Legislature over limits on medical malpractice awards.

Equally powerful doctors and trial lawyers are lining up on opposite sides.

Macy Messer, 6, could be the poster child for the argument against capping medical malpractice awards. Jaundice that went undiagnosed damaged her brain and forced her into a wheelchair for life. She has to use a special computer screen to communicate.

Messer's mother, April, said the day-to-day costs are astronomical.

"I think it's very important for people to realize that outside of medical expenses, there are costs that far exceed the costs of pumps, medical pumps, feeding pumps, lines," April Messer said.

At a news conference, the Coalition for Patients' Rights presented several more victims of medical mistakes.

Alice Loyd of Morganton said she went to the doctor feeling dizzy and left with her arm and both legs amputated.

The coalition's campaign against capping malpractice awards has the backing of trial lawyers, many of whom make their living suing doctors and hospitals.

The trial lawyers appear headed for a fight with state lawmakers, who believe it's time to limit medical malpractice awards.

"North Carolina is now a state in a malpractice crisis," said Sen. Jim Forrester, a Republican from Catawba County, "because the cost of insurance is going up so fast."

Forrester, a family doctor, supports the Senate's proposed cap of $250,000 on malpractice awards.

"It would be far better," he said, "not just for the physicians but also for the patients, nursing homes and hospitals."

The House version with the same cap has the support of more than half of that chamber's members. In the Senate, 17 of 50 members have signed on.

The Senate is scheduled to hold the first hearings on medical malpractice limits next week.