A proposed new bill in Georgia seeks to take medical malpractice cases out of the court and treat them more like worker’s compensation cases.
The bill, introduced by State Sen. Brandon Beach, a Republican, proposes creating a system whereby patients take claims against doctors or hospitals to a “patient injury board” made up of physicians, attorneys, and patient advocates, rather than filing a traditional lawsuit in court. If the board decides that compensation for an error is warranted, it will be paid out of a fund that all providers pay into, similar to the no-fault system covering workplace injuries. The purpose of the proposed bill is to simplify the system and reduce malpractice insurance premiums for physicians, as well as reducing health insurance costs for patients.
Beach suggests that the practice of “defensive medicine” to avoid lawsuits has led to skyrocketing healthcare costs in the state. He maintains that the new system will help patients get compensated faster and more easily. Some supporters believe that the bill would help patients get compensated for errors that are too small to entice a lawyer to take the case. Trial lawyers, however, are not supportive.
“The proposed bill that’s written violates the 7th amendment right to trial by jury here in Georgia,” said Jay Sadd, president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. “There’s also the United States constitutional right to a trial by jury. What is being attempted is to create a system of justice where doctors and other healthcare providers just sort of govern themselves.”