The House of Representatives has (again) passed a bill to cap non-economic and punitive damages nationwide at $250,000. The euphemistically entitled “Protecting Access to Healthcare Act” will likely fail (again) in the Senate.

Like many issues that become politicized, medical liability is shrouded in misinformation. Medical mistakes are not uncommon, and the vast majority do not result in claims. Estimates are 98,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical mistakes.

Will caps benefit anyone other than insurance companies? States that have caps still have high insurance rates for too many doctors. Efforts to tie caps to a decrease in premiums are resisted by insurance companies. And $250,000 for a young person rendered paraplegic by a distracted surgeon’s gross negligence fits no reasonable person’s idea of fair compensation.

Doctors should be wise enough to know that lawyers are not their enemies. Read the book Damages, by Barry Werth, about the long history of a medical liability case in Connecticut and how the defendant doctor, first outraged at the lawyer who sued her, came to realize that the insurance business was the real obstacle to a just and economical resolution.

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