Voters in California will have the opportunity to vote for an increase in the state’s medical malpractice damages cap at the polls this November. "Proponents of the measure are seeking to alter the state’s landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which caps certain malpractice damages, such as those for pain and suffering, at $250,000. The initiative would raise the pain-and-suffering cap to approximately $1.1 million, accounting for inflation since the law was signed in 1975, and index the cap to future inflation rates," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Proponents of the measure say that it would allow victims of medical malpractice to receive adequate compensation for their suffering, and that it would deter doctors from negligence. In addition, many lawyers are unable to take on medical malpractice cases due to the low cap.
There are several other new measures included in the medical malpractice referendum. Again from the Times: "The initiative also would require hospitals to conduct random tests on physicians for drugs and alcohol. Physicians would also face testing after incidents of preventable medical errors. Doctors would be required to report to the state’s Medical Board if they have knowledge of a physician using drugs or alcohol while on duty. If a doctor tests positive or refuses to submit to screening, the board may suspend the doctor’s license. Supporters point to a California Medical Board report in 2000 that estimated 18% of physicians in the state have had substance abuse problems in their lifetime."
One other significant measure in the referendum is the creation of a statewide database of patients who receive prescriptions for pain medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Doctors would have to consult this database before writing a prescription for these drugs. It is hoped that this measure would cut down on prescription drug abuse and shopping around for prescriptions.