Oregon News

Medical Malpractice Issue May Return to Ballot

Oregon voters may see a second ballot measure to cap medical malpractice lawsuit awards, despite rejecting the idea in 2000.

The United States Senate voted down legislation that called for a $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering” damages at the beginning of this summer, while the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that caps on noneconomic damages are unconstitutional. The state’s Supreme Court ruling means that voters would have to approve an amendment to the state constitution in order to instate the caps. Such an amendment could be sponsored by the Oregon Medical Association, but is opposed by groups and individuals who believe that caps would prevent victims from receiving proper compensation.

Many doctors support the idea of caps on medical malpractice insurance payouts because of the rapidly increasing cost of malpractice insurance. In some rural areas of Oregon, family practice doctors have stopped delivering babies due to the high cost of insurance associated with obstetrics.

Others say that there are alternate ways to handle medical liability cases without taking away the power of juries to award the financial sum they deem appropriate. Chris Bouneff, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association spokesman, suggested improving patient safety measures and reforming the insurance industry.

In June, the Oregon House of Representative approved a plan that will use the State Accident Insurance Fund to help reduce insurance premiums that rural doctors pay. The bill establishes a “reinsurance plan” that will help cover large claims that result from malpractice suits.

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