The ramifications of the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn caps on malpractice suits are clear. Frivolous malpractice suits will increase. Physicians will be discouraged from practicing medicine within that state. And access to health care providers for the people of Illinois will be restricted because off this decision. Medical Malpractice rates will increase, and the costs of healthcare will go back up. Bad as that is, the implications of that decision may be even more devastating.
Our society’s rule is a rule of Law. The Illinois state medical malpractice judgment cap law wasn’t instituted until 2005. There will still be consequences, of course, but it’s within keeping of the separation of powers for a law to be repealed by a Supreme Court shortly after it has been enacted. It’s not a question of whether they can do it, but if they should. It’s still the less than unanimous decision of the IL SC that is overriding the will of their entire legislature, presumably representing the will of the People. One would expect the Supreme Court to tread more lightly, in absence of a matter of prejudice. Yet their decision seems to support prejudice. Jackpot trial lawyers aren’t filing frivolous suits against indigent people. They’re going after doctors, based on the prejudicial (and erroneous) notion that they can afford to be taken to the cleaners. They may claim that it’s protecting the citizen’s right to redress in civil court, but the law didn’t cap the actual total of the suit, only awards for noneconomic damages. $500,000 in cases against doctors and $1 million against hospitals seems more than ample for the patient’s trouble, pain, suffering, etc.
Like other states, the IL lawmakers have passed caps twice before, only to have them overturned. “Yes you can harass a doctor for money with impunity. Wait, no you can’t.” And the whole time, these lawyers view the doctors (and their MMI policies) as fatted calves.
If Illinois’ legislators can’t make a bulletproof tort reform clause, they will be forever voting and repealing and passing and repealing what amounts to our cultural foundations. The implications are staggering, horrendous.
The balance of powers is important. Without Supreme Courts there to preserve the rights of the individual, the tyranny of the majority would prevail. But they must tread very lightly; be certain that some individual is being trampled on by the laws. In this case, it is the legislature, not the Supreme Court, which worked hard to do exactly that, and been thwarted time and time again.
Removing tort reform laws isn’t serving the People’s best interests, and it’s not protecting the physicians (who are also citizens, after all) from the prejudice of frivolous lawsuits. It only serves the greedy few who are raking in the bucks by making healthcare more expensive for everyone. Once again we see that the best form of Health Care Reform comes from membership in Medical Justice. While courts override the rule of law, physicians must reclaim control of such matters, by employing the proven methods provided by that membership.