Maryland recently introduced a bill under which hospitals will fund immediate and thorough care for babies who sustain severe neurological damage while being birthed. Under the bill, the funds will be willingly paid by the state hospitals, but parents of babies who take advantage of the funds must promise not to seek legal action against the hospital or the doctor who delivered their babies. While this may sound like a good idea, some critics believe that the bill, if passed, may do more harm than good. If you live in Maryland, here is what you need to know to help you decide whether to support your state's plan to initiate a no-fault birth injury fund.
Obstetricians come in second on the list of types of doctors sued for medical malpractice. In fact, seventy percent of practicing obstetricians will be sued at least once during the course of their careers. The fear of losing their money, their medical licenses, and their reputations to lawsuits has prompted obstetricians to do everything from deny their patients certain procedures, outright lie to their patients about what has been done to their body during surgery, and even quit their jobs altogether, opting instead to practice a less-apt-to-be-sued branch of medical care.
The No-Fault Birth Injury Fund, if passed, would take some of the risk of lawsuit away from obstetricians. In doing so, the bill may allow you more options when it comes to childbirth and a better chance of receiving an accurate account of procedures performed on your body. The bill may also help persuade more obstetricians to stick with their practice, thus ensuring enough of these doctors to provide all patients with a personal level of care.
The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not it's a good idea to make practicing obstetricians exempt from being held accountable for birth injuries they contributed to. With a lower risk of medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors may be more willing to perform risky procedures and act with their own interests in mind when delivering children.
Not only might this bill contribute to the problem of medical negligence, but it also will lower the amount of compensation those who take advantage of it are able to receive. Currently, the cap for medical malpractice damages in Maryland is $740,000, $350,000 of which can be awarded for pain and suffering. Under the new No-Fault Birth Injury rule, you aren't entitled to pain and suffering should you opt for the immediate care offered by the hospital. Should you have a child that sustains a neurological injury during delivery, they will receive the medical attention they need at no cost to you under this program, but there are several things that you won't be compensated for. You won't be paid for the time you had to miss from work to care for your child, you won't be paid for transportation costs associated with your baby's care, and you won't be compensated for the grief and emotional distress a person in this position is bound to face.
Should this bill pass, you will not automatically forfeit your right to sue in the event that your child is injured during delivery by a negligent doctor. Instead, you'll be given a choice -- do you want immediate free care for your child or do you want to sue the doctor or hospital? It's likely that parents put in this situation will find that their concern for their child's well-being trumps all else; many will readily agree to dismiss the doctor of consequences and forfeit a portion of the compensation they're entitled to so that their baby can be treated as soon as possible.
If you plan on having a child in the future, you should care about Maryland's proposed No-Fault Birth Injury rule. Whether you're for it or against it, call your state officials and add your voice to the debate on whether or not parents with children who have been injured during birth should be given the choice to forfeit their right to sue in exchange for immediate, free medical attention. For more information about birth practices, check out websites like http://www.snyderwenner.com.