The main lobbying organization for the nation's trial lawyers says it is not entirely opposed to President Barack Obama's call for compromise on medical malpractice lawsuits. But the group is making clear that its support would depend on several conditions.
Obama’s prepared remarks to the American Medical Association today included a few lines about exploring a “range of ideas” so that doctors are not “constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of lawsuits.” He ruled out a cap on malpractice awards but suggested greater use of “evidence-based guidelines” — which doctors could rely on to build legal defenses.
The American Association for Justice, which lobbies for the plaintiffs’ bar, did not immediately dismiss the idea.
“Empirically-based practice guidelines, developed by independent experts, is an idea we can support, as long as it does not lower quality or standards of care. Instead, these guidelines should lead to greater patient safety,” Les Weisbrod, the association’s president, said in a statement.
Those “ifs” are not small, of course. The Obama administration is not yet pushing specific legislation, so details about who would develop the relevant guidelines and whether the total effect would “lower quality” aren’t clear.
Weisbrod, of Miller, Curtis & Weisbrod in Dallas, added: “According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors. Eliminating these errors, not further hurting the victims of negligence, is where lawmakers should focus their attention. By taking away the rights of people to hold wrongdoers accountable, the quality of health care will suffer tremendously.”