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I’ve written before about how so-called “tort-reform” is slowly eliminating the rights of victims to have a fair shake in court. This is particularly true in the area of medical malpractice, where onerous procedural hurdles and damage caps make it too expensive and too difficult to pursue most cases, even when the victim is clearly right on the merits. The sad reality is that tort reform has made malpractice survivors victims once again by keeping them out of the courtroom.

Michigan is not the only state to undergo aggressive, anti-survivor tort reform legislation. Last week, the New York Times carried a story about a Texas woman who had her legs amputated because emergency room doctors dismissed her concerns about her history of blood clots. Although she provided this important information to her doctors, they sent her home with the wrong diagnosis. By the time she was transported to a different hospital, it was too late to save her legs. A blood clot had indeed formed, causing extensive tissue damage.

In Texas, emergency room doctors are not legally responsible for harming a patient unless their conduct was “willful and wanton,” meaning they have to intend to injure the patient. If a doctor is careless, even reckless, the injured patient has no recourse. In addition, the injured victim can be held responsible for paying the careless doctor’s legal bills if the victim’s expert witness reports are procedurally inadequate. They are penalized for trying to assert their rights.

Tort reform is protecting bad doctors and victimizing the already-injured survivors of medical malpractice. When their trust is betrayed by a careless medical provider and a preventable injury occurs, patients deserve a level playing field in the courtroom. All they are asking for is a chance to tell their stories to a jury.

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