Bills limiting NJ medical malpractice suits fail to pass Legislature

During the last legislative session, New Jersey’s legislature put patients’ rights first, declining to pass two bills that would have prevented patients who were harmed by volunteer doctors from filing medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill allowed only certain cases to proceed, when the doctor exhibited “gross negligence or willful misconduct,” which is a high standard to meet.

Many Americans receive medical care from non-profit clinics, where volunteer doctors provide care. Typically, people who receive medical care from these clinics are those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but are still unable to afford health insurance. If these bills had passed, all of those who required medical attention, but had no way to pay for the care would have been left without recourse if they were injured by a doctor at the clinic.

The New Jersey Association for Justice contended that the bills, “will establish two tiers in our society: one which retains legal rights and access to justice, and another for which the courthouse doors are locked and bolted.” They also argued that, “Healthcare provided at the clinics and centers covered by this bill will not be ‘free,’ since the hidden cost of seeking that care will be the loss of legal rights.”

Attorneys pointed out that passing the bills would have allowed only the rich to sue their doctors after suffering a serious injury at their hands. People who could not afford healthcare would be left with few options.

Supporters of the bills claimed that immunity from malpractice lawsuits would have allowed additional retired doctors to volunteer, as they would not have been required to obtain medical malpractice insurance.

Source: NJ.com, “Bills to protect volunteer doctors from malpractice suits fail,” Myles Ma, June 25, 2012.

Posted in: Medical Malpractice