Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives includes a
provision that will effectively protect doctors and other healthcare workers
against medical malpractice lawsuits, according to the
New York Times.
The primary purpose of the bill is to provide a mechanism by which the
government can measure the quality of care provided by doctors, including
a system by which a doctor's performance is rated on a scale from
zero to 100. Tucked into the bill, however, is a provision that prohibits
the quality-of-care standards used in federal health programs from being
used in medical malpractice cases. In other words, those performance ratings
cannot be used as evidence of a doctor's negligence for purposes of
a malpractice lawsuit.
The Plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must prove that the Defendant's
care of the patient fell below the "standard of care." The "standard
of care" refers to the level and type of care that a reasonably competent
and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in
the same medical community, would have provided under the same or similar
circumstances. Typically, expert testimony is used to prove a Defendant's
treatment of a patient fell below the standard of care and was, therefore,
With the proliferation of quality metrics now required by various laws,
including the Affordable Care Act, Plaintiffs may have another way to
prove negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The fact that a provider's
care violated state or federal safety standards, or that the provider's
performance was ranked below average, could be powerful evidence in the
hands of a jury in a medical malpractice trial; however, if this House
bill passes in its current form, that evidence will never make it to trial.
The Senate will take up the bill, which President Obama has endorsed, when
it returns on April 13th.
If you need smart insight into a potential case, please get in touch with
our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.
For more coverage of relevant medical laws, please see:
Understanding the Implications of a Possible Supreme Court Ruling Against
the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)