Legislation Called Violation of Patients' Rights

   Manchester, NH - 5/27/2012 -  Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, testified on April 26 before the New Hampshire Judiciary Committee on legislation that would strip patients of the legal rights is a way that is “so dismissive of constitutional rights and potentially calamitous for injured patients” that no other state in the country has considered it. Calling this “early offer” legislation, S.B. 406, an “experiment,” Doroshow said, “This experiment, as proposed, is unethical. It violates the legal rights of patients. It flouts basic notions of fairness. It would tilt the legal playing field so dramatically in favor of insurers as to essentially eviscerate patients’ rights to adequate compensation.”
  According to Doroshow, under this scheme, a patient injured by medical malpractice, or their family, would be offered compensation by the medical provider that caused the injuries or death. For many patients, this offer would come before the patient has any idea what their injuries are or their cause. Yet to agree to this “early offer,” the patient would be required to immediately sign away their legal rights.
  “Once they’ve signed away their rights, the injured patients’ ability to collect economic compensation, like medical costs and lost wages, would be infected by conflicts of interest at every single step, beginning with allowing the medical provider to choose its own doctor to decide a patient’s damages," Doroshow said. "Then, in order to receive any future medical expenses in the case of a catastrophic injury, this experiment would condemn a patients – or their injured child – to a lifetime of fighting medical providers just to get their bills paid.
   “As to non-economic damages, under this experiment, patients completely lose all ability to be compensated for those losses. And because the medical provider has so much discretion and cost-cutting motivation to reject portions of a patient’s claim, the patient may have no option but to reject the hospital’s ‘early offer’ for compensation and go to court. However, if they do, the patient is penalized by having to prove their case under a burden that is almost impossible to meet.
   “I want to be clear that this experiment is unethical. While its proponents argue that participation in this experiment is voluntary, the actual ‘consent’ process violates even the most basic precepts of what constitutes a voluntary program. Patients who ‘opt in’ to this program must sign a waiver of their rights, written in legalese and understandable only to lawyers, before the patient even knows specifically what compensation and courtroom rights they are relinquishing. Patients could be extremely harmed by this experiment. This is highly unethical, and New Hampshire legislators should reject it.”
   A copy of the written testimony can be found here.
   Note: For an update of the status of this bill, visit http://legiscan.com/gaits/view/397114