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Legislation Would Change Medical Malpractice Standards

A new bill under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature would change the definition of medical negligence for emergency room physicians throughout the state. The new measure would require additional evidence from plaintiffs who seek compensation for medical malpractice from emergency department staff. Lawmakers say that emergency physicians should not be held to the same strict standards for medical errors as doctors who are performing work under different circumstances.The measure, House Bill 804, would require clear and convincing evidence from plaintiffs that serious errors and omissions had occurred during emergency care. That standard would thus be changed to simple negligence from gross negligence. The bill would effectively provide additional protection against doctor errors for physicians who are practicing in the unpredictable emergency room environment.Legislators and physicians advocates say that the current standard is "fundamentally unjust" and encourages abuses of the civil litigation system. Emergency providers are required to make difficult decisions under duress. In many cases, those doctors do not have any prior relationship with the patient who is receiving care, and the patients' medical histories are often incomplete or missing entirely.This change would definitely benefit emergency room physicians, but it would do little to add to the peace of mind of victims who have been injured because of doctor errors. Patients who have been victimized by medical error in any venue deserve access to legal redress for additional medical expenses and other civil claims. Victims who have been harmed because of doctor negligence in Pennsylvania emergency rooms are not yet governed by this pending legislation. Those patients may be entitled to financial compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages and a variety of other damages.Source: Pittsburgh Business Times, "Bill would change medical negligence definition" Kris B. Mamula, Apr. 02, 2014 

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