Congress is currently considering a number of bills that are an attack upon all citizens’ rights under the 7th Amendment, the right to trial by jury. The proposed legislation includes, “The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act”, “The Innocent Party Protection Act” and the “Protecting Access to Care Act”. The titles given these bills are meant to convey that they are helpful and necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every parent tries to teach their children the importance of being accountable. Indeed, personal responsibility, accepting responsibility for your conduct, is a core value held dear by all Americans. Yet in a brazen attempt to upend our nation’s laws that allow wrongdoers to be held accountable when they break our laws, and injure or kill Americans, Congress is rushing these and other bills to the floor, without any hearing, with one goal in mind: to strip Americans of their right to hold wrongdoers and powerful corporations accountable.
A prime example is the so called “Protecting Access to Care Act”. This bill will essentially rig the system in favor of insurance companies and health care providers and against patients and their families, by preventing medical care providers who commit medical negligence from being held accountable for the harm they cause. This bill would wipe out massive areas of state law and deprive state legislatures of the ability to legislate those issues as they deem fit.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have recently concluded that medical mistakes and errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 250,000 patients per year and accounting for almost 10% of all deaths in our country. This study did not include statistics of those patients who suffered harm, often permanent and serious injury. Given these findings, one might wonder why Congress would feel it necessary to pass laws that allow health care providers to avoid accountability and shield them from responsibility for the harm or death that results from sub-standard medical care.
The answer provided by proponents of the Protecting Access to Care Act is that claims against health care providers for the injury or death caused by sub-standard care are a major contributor to healthcare costs. However a recent study by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizens demonstrates that claims brought by patients killed or injured because of sub-standard care are being used as a scapegoat in this health care debate.
In fact, payments made in 2015 accounted for only one-tenth of one percent of all healthcare costs. The number of such payments was the lowest on record. Further, medical liability insurance premium payments have reached historical low levels, accounting for only three-tenths of one percent of all health care costs in 2015. Only about two to three percent of patients or patients’ families who suffer from medical mistakes ever actually pursue a lawsuit. See: https://www.aboutlawsuits.com/medical-malpractice-report-122305/#sthash.8kmGJj7e.dpuf.
When the federal government undertakes to eliminate your right to civil justice under the 7th Amendment, and deprive the states of their rights to provide and protect your rights to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions, it is time to let your elected representatives know that such conduct is unacceptable regardless of their party affiliation. Please contact your elected representatives and tell them that these attack on your rights, and our system of civil justice, is wrong and inconsistent with their responsibilities to us all.