Only in Albany can a bill pass the Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support, be sponsored by a majority of the State Senate, be endorsed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and yet never come up for a final vote. That happened to Lavern’s Law, a bill that would have helped grievously injured victims of medical malpractice have their day in court. This summer, the Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan, a Republican, wouldn’t allow the bill to be voted on, effectively killing it.
.... Hospitals are dangerous places. In 1999 the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences published a study, “To Err is Human,” which concluded that at least 44,000 patients were killed (and many more injured) in hospitals each year because of medical errors. By 2011, a study in the journal HealthAffairs estimated that the number of avoidable deaths was probably 10 times higher. Hundreds of thousands more patients are seriously injured through negligence. Doctors and hospitals are doing a poor job of policing themselves, yet they have been successful at keeping anyone else from doing it.
The opposition to Lavern’s Law came from the hospital and health care lobby, apparently concerned that the bill might result in more medical malpractice lawsuits. It very well might, but the actual number would probably be minuscule: Of the hundreds of possible cases we evaluate every year, only a handful are outside the statute of limitations. ...
Surprisingly, despite the frequency of avoidable errors, very few wind up as medical malpractice lawsuits. A 2013 study concluded that about 1 percent of medical errors resulted in a claim.
And even if a victim wins a medical malpractice lawsuit, awards are generally modest. Thirty-three states restrict the amount of compensation for the pain and suffering victims have endured. According to the Department of Justice, the median award by juries is $400,000; in bench trials, where the judge also serves as the jury, the median award is $631,000.