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House Passes Bill Adding Review Before Medical Malpractice, Neglect Trials

LRC Public Information

Medical malpractice and neglect lawsuits would have to be reviewed by a committee of doctors before they head to court under a bill that narrowly passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Supporters of the legislation say the state is too “litigation friendly” and that the policy would help weed out frivolous lawsuits.

Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti said the bill will make the state more attractive to doctors and hospitals.

“They’re looking for climates that respect them, that do not demonize them, that understand that mistakes are made,” Benvenuti said. “And when mistakes are made, there’s a price to be paid for that. That’s all fine with them. But we need a balanced approach.”

Under the bill, a panel of three doctors would review claims made against doctors, nursing homes and other healthcare organizations before they head to court. The body would produce an opinion that could be used as evidence if the case goes to trial.

“Our climate here simply is not favorable to attract the best and the brightest,” Benvenuti said. “We are so fortunate that as we sit here today we still have outstanding healthcare providers in Kentucky. But let me tell you, that’s changing. People are moving.”

The legislation has been altered since it passed the state Senate earlier this session. The bill now requires panels to deliver their opinions within nine months, and trial judges would decide whether to admit the panels’ findings as evidence.

Opponents to the bill say it would add hefty costs and delay resolution for plaintiffs by adding a layer of review before a trial.

“If we have a problem in this state it’s a medical errors problem, not a malpractice lawsuit problem,” said Rep. Chris Harris, a Democrat from Forest Hills. “Let’s focus on cracking down on the few doctors that account for most of these claims”

Harris also argued that there wasn’t any evidence that doctors are leaving Kentucky because the state doesn’t have the law in place.

“The sky is not falling in Kentucky,” he said.

The bill passed the House with no votes to spare, 51-45. The Senate will now have to consider the House’s changes before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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