Arizona News

Arizona medical malpractice caps being pushed

The Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) hopes to work toward a ballot measure that they hope can lead to caps on non-economic damages in Arizona medical malpractice cases. Currently, the group is working on wording for a measure pushing caps, and raising money in the medical community for a campaign that could cost up to $6 million, according to the group's vice president of policy and political affairs.

Should an Arizona medical malpractice measure make it to the ballot, an expensive battle between proponents of malpractice reform and trial lawyers is expected to ensue. The director of Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform (FAIR), funded by the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, said the two organizations have not raised any money but they are always prepared to go into a fund raising mode. ArMA has so far raised around $400,000.

Opponents of the Arizona medical malpractice caps have argued limiting awards further punishes victims and more focus should be put on eliminating negligent medical acts, which are made by only a small percentage of doctors. Public Citizen consumer group issued annual rankings of state medical boards in April 2005 by calculating the three-year average rate of discipline for each year and the preceding two years for all state, listing them by rank for each three-year interval.

The ranking, based on the three-year average rate, for Arizona was calculated at 6.68 actions per 1,000 physicians. Public Citizen believes most states are failing to live up to their obligations to protect patients from doctors who are not practicing medicine in the best manner, and that serious focus must be placed on identifying what areas are deficient in each state so that appropriate action can be taken.

Arizona's Governor Napolitano, on April 25, signed the medical malpractice procedures bill (S1036) with reservation that says an apology for a medical mistake or unanticipated outcome may not be used in court as an admission of liability by a health care provider. The bill was left without the controversial provision that would have permitted a defendant to interview the plaintiff's health care providers, without permission of the plaintiff. The governor warned that part of the bill that redefines qualifications for expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases has questionable legal foundation, and said the apology provision will reduce the number of Arizona medical malpractice claims against doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

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