Last week legislation was introduced in the Ohio Senate (Senate Bill 129) to grant immunity to physicians for malpractice committed by them in emergency rooms all across the state. Even though medical errors cost this country $4.4 billion annually (statistics from U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services), the senators who introduced this bill evidently believe that passage of a law like this will somehow reduce our state’s share of this huge cost. But the opposite is true: loss of a patient’s right to seek monetary compensation for injuries caused by physician errors in emergency rooms means that the state will assume the debt caused by these errors-debt in the form of medical expenses to treat these physician-caused injuries, as well as other forms of assistance necessary to help people disabled by these injuries. If a doctor uneccessarily amputates a leg in the emergency room, the patient whose life has been ruined may just have to forgive and forget, and the state of Ohio will just have to bear the burden of the financial loss caused thereby. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?
More than 50 years ago the “charitable immunity” doctrine, which had immunized non-profit hospitals from lawsuits for injuries caused by their negligence, was eliminated by the Ohio Supreme Court because of the widespread availability of liability insurance to protect hospitals’ nonprofit assets. Today, “nonprofit” physician groups do not staff emergency rooms across the state. All physicians can readily avail themselves of liability insurance to protect themselves and their patients. And the expense of obtaining such insurance is far offset by the gain to Ohio citizens who receive protection when they are injured because of something that their physician did wrong. It also eliminates the anomaly of a select and financially prosperous group being absolved of responsibility for their wrongdoing, while all others must be held legally accountable for injuries when they do wrong.
Call your state senator or representative and urge them to vote against this bill. It would give emergency room physicians a free pass at the expense of Ohio citizens and taxpayers.