Texas Votes Saturday on Limits to Medical Malpractice

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Supporters say it will help keep healthcare affordable and accessible. Opponents say it will strip power from the courts and diminish the legal recourse of people harmed by medical malpractice.

On Saturday, Texans will have to weigh those competing messages when they vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which would allow the legislature to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $750,000, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

If it passes, Texas will be the first state in the nation to rewrite its constitution to limit those damages, which relate to a victim’s pain and suffering. Economic damages – the tangible toll of an injury on one’s life – would continue to be awarded without limit.

The measure has arisen at a time of growing nationwide concern over rising healthcare costs – and debate over whether medical malpractice insurance is a key to the problem.

Saturday’s vote comes after 21 states have capped noneconomic damages, often to see the laws overturned on constitutional grounds. The Texas proposition is being closely watched nationwide as a sign of whether legal reformers can use this tactic to make such caps stick in other states.

The move is paralleled in the US Congress, as Senate Republicans gear up for a similar fight over limiting medical-malpractice damage awards. Democrats already blocked one such effort this year.

Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0912/p02s02-uspo.html

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