I just read about an interesting medical malpractice case report from Iowa. The family of a boy whose brain was severely injured during birth at an Iowa City hospital has been awarded $97.4 million — believed to be the largest medical malpractice verdict in Iowa’s history. The family’s lawsuit contended the boy’s brain damage was caused by medical staff’s failure to act on signs that the baby was being deprived of oxygen in the hours before his birth and failure to deliver the baby by cesarean section. The boy is now 3 years old and is unable to walk by himself or speak beyond a few words. The family says he will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life. This child’s injury is catastrophic and he will need intensive care for as long as he lives. An article on the case can be found here.
This is what the civil justice system is supposed to do…right? If a jury, after hearing the evidence from both sides, decides a doctor or hospital acted negligently and that negligence resulted in a significant injury to the patient then a substantial damages award is appropriate. There will be past medical bills to reimburse, there will be future medical care to be paid for, and there needs to be consideration for the impairment of the enjoyment of life. It is not a gift from the jury…it is a recognition of the damages and losses suffered.
Would this happen in Virginia? No. The Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia Hospital Association (and their lobbyists) convinced the Virginia General Assembly years ago to limit the damages that can be awarded by a jury in a medical malpractice case.
The limit, presently at $2,500.000 applies regardless of whether the patient has already incurred millions in medical bills or will face millions of dollars in future medical bills. The limit applies even if the patient was a young provider for dependent children and as a result of her/his injuries has lost millions in future earnings. Here is a great opinion piece in the Washington Post.
My Take: No other person or institution in Virginia gets the same protection…why should healthcare providers?