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When justice is whittled down

When the amount of money is large, the damage is always heart-breaking. That is exactly the case in a recently decided medical malpractice case in which a jury sided with a family. They had argued that they lost a loved one due to negligence by the medical staff at a Baltimore hospital.

The man had gone to the facility in 2013 with kidney problems. During treatment, he was administered a drug to address his elevated potassium levels. The lawsuit stated that the medication severely damaged the man's colon and caused his death. The jury agreed, awarding the family $10 million. 

The first injustice in this case took place at the hospital when the doctor who prescribed the drug was unaware of its dangers and where the staff waited too long to perform tests to see if there was a problem with the man. The second injustice in the case took place in the Maryland legislature, where lawmakers decided three decades ago to limit compensation to those who are damaged by negligent medical personnel.

The effect of the law is that it harms only those who have been harmed already by medication error, misdiagnosis, surgical error or other example of negligence.

In the case of the Baltimore family, it reduced their compensation by more than 90 percent. The $10 million verdict arrived at by the jury was cut down to $906,250 by law.

Another effect of the statute is that it removes the financial motivation for doctors and hospitals to do all they can to weed out negligent health care providers.

The cap on non-economic damages in West Virginia medical malpractice cases is just as unreasonable as the one to our east. Fortunately, economic damages are not capped here, which can enable families and injured patients to pursue compensation and justice.

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