Last Sunday’s Conversation focused on the 38-year-old Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which capped damages for pain and suffering at $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. The case of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who has been ruled brain-dead after a tonsillectomy, gives attention to a possible initiative on the November ballot that would alter the cap. We asked readers: Should damages for pain and suffering in a medical malpractice case be capped at $250,000?
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Raise medical negligence cap
Re “Jahi’s fight for life turns political” (Forum, Dan Morain, Jan. 5): Two of my close family members, both now deceased, suffered years of pain and disability as a result of supposedly routine medical procedures that were botched. As a result, I’m all too aware of the limitations of our health care system and of our legal system.
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Folks who have been damaged by the health care system should have their day in court and deserve compensation. No amount of money can replace life and health. However, an award for pain and suffering validates that wrong has been done and holds someone accountable.
The award needs to be an amount that wakes up health care providers to the depth of the destruction they have caused. For that reason, if I get the chance, I’ll vote wholeheartedly to raise the cap on monetary awards for pain and suffering from medical negligence.
– Mary Lou Giles, Cameron Park
Stand up for injured patients
As someone who is caring for someone suffering from a doctor’s mistake, I can tell you the medical malpractice law needs to be changed. The bills are mounting and my mother’s care rides on my shoulders. Because of the $250,000 cap on potential compensation, it is extremely hard for me to find anyone willing to help me stand up for justice on behalf of my mother.
Yet the doctor’s lack of care has meant my mother changed from an independent, walking senior to someone needing round-the-clock care.
– Melissa Tereck, Dixon
Matthew Waterworth – The people who need to be sued and/or punished in this situation, are the lawyer and others who convinced Jahi’s parents that there was any chance of her coming back. … Thanks to the lawyer trying to get free publicity, and corporate media giving it to him, Jahi’s parents are misinformed, confused and behind in starting their grieving process.
Chris Harris – No, each case should be decided individually.
Eric Andrist – Why should there be a cap. Twenty-two states have no caps and 12 of those have found it to be unconstitutional. The law was written in 1975 to keep doctor’s malpractice insurance rates low which it never did. We now have Prop. 103 that regulates their rates, so the cap law is no longer necessary. Judges have the power to overrule a jury’s verdict should he/she find it to be out of line.
Janet Sellers – I think it needs to be fair. $250,000 may not be enough in some cases. Accidents happen and it is sad, but I am not sure I would even think to sue. In the Jahi case, get the facts, bury the poor girl and donate her organs, if possible. These cases shouldn’t be there to make people rich. It won’t bring their daughter back or make a wrong right.
Anne Shuck – It’s not about a medical cap for malpractice, it’s about the lawyer’s callous disregard for a death with dignity for this young girl in exchange for money.
Christina Borgman – I think the $250,000 limit is outdated. If a medical procedure goes wrong and leaves someone with life-long injuries that require ongoing care, that $250K will be gone in an instant. If, for example with the Jahi case, she wasn’t brain-dead, but injured enough to require round-the-clock nursing services, that would cost way more than $250K over the remaining lifetime of a 13 year old. I think that malpractice awards need to be based on the extent of the injury and the need for aftercare.
Greg Morris – There should be a cap. Not sure what the right number is.
Ruth Nichols – Absolutely not! It is the only remedy the small guy still has at his disposal.
Natalie Switzer – All procedures have risks. All doctors and nurses and anyone else who works in the medical field have risk. This is a sad situation but was not outside the realm of possibilities. There should be a cap.
Adam McMillen – Of course damages should not be capped. Let the jury decide damages based upon the evidence of each case.
Samantha Washington – I’m not sure there should be a cap; however, I think each case should have a cap and it should be set by someone other than the parties involved. It needs to be looked at case by case.