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Patients Fear Changes to Malpractice Legislation

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Photo: Video by fox47news.com

Patients Fear Changes to Malpractice Legislation

By FOX 47 News. CREATED Jul 19, 2012

Tami Finley suffered a botched surgery, and as a result, gangrene. She said her doctor was in a rush.

"I was rotting from the inside out, and she just left me," Finley said.

After two years and eight surgeries, she told her story in front of hundreds, most of them against Senate Bill 1116. It proposes legislation that would shield doctors from malpractice lawsuits, unless they admit they did something wrong.

"I'm accountable as a mother, I'm accountable as a wife. I would expect somebody I'm paying to be accountable, especially a doctor," Finley said.

Doctors who support the bill say without it, the state will have a shortage of doctors and quality care.

"Right now we don't have those physicians in the queue," said Dr. Cheryl Gibson-Fountain, an OBGYN. "They're training here, but not finding it a desirable place to stay. They're going to other states."

Experts say that simply isn't true, and that these reforms - four bills total - will basically make doctors immune to responsibility because it's all based on their professional judgment and "good-faith belief" that they did the right thing.

"It's not a test of conduct like you would with engineers, airline pilots, you, me, driving, anyone else, it's a belief, what's in your mind? I can't prove that, when you can't prove it, it's defacto immunity," said Norman Tucker, an attorney.

Tuckers said the other bills effectively increase litigation costs and decrease the recovery someone can get, so filing a claim becomes too difficult. Other attorneys don't mind the language of the bills, but many people fear repeat offenders will be able to continue practicing.

"I don't trust doctors," Finley said. "I have learned that I can question everything, every single thing a doctor does, I don't have to sit there and believe that they know what they're doing is right. I can question every single thing, and I do. For myself and my family."

Proponents of the reform say patients can still hold doctors accountable by contacting the state medical society or board of medicine.