The so-called California Proposition 46 (“Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative”) is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in California after being certified on May 15, 2014 by the California Secretary of State. The proponents of California 46 had submitted approximately 830,000 signatures in support of placing the initiative on the November 2014 ballot, which far-exceeded the required 504,760 signatures.
Even the official ballot title of Proposition 46 (“Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute”) is controversial: the Editorial Board of the San Diego Union-Tribune argued that the California Attorney General’s placement of the phrase “Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors” as the first part of the title was intended to “intentionally deceive[d] ballot signers by highlighting one of the fig leaves that trial lawyers attached to the measure to hide their real intent. It’s in keeping with [the Attorney General’s] long history of using misleading ballot titles and summaries to help measures her allies like and hurt measures they don’t.”
The Official Summary for Proposition 46 states: “Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive test to the California Medical Board. Requires Board to suspend doctor pending investigation of positive test and take disciplinary action if doctor was impaired while on duty. Requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Requires health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Increases $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation.”
If passed into law, Proposition 46 would:
– Increase California’s cap on damages in medical negligence lawsuits to over $1 million from the current cap in the amount of $250,000, which was established in 1975;
– Require drug and alcohol testing of physicians and reporting positive test results to the Medical Board of California;
– Require the Medical Board of California to suspend physicians pending investigations of positive drug and alcohol tests and take appropriate disciplinary action if the physician is found impaired while on duty;
– Require health care practitioners to report any physician suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence;
– Require health care practitioners to consult the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.
California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (“MICRA”) was enacted in 1975. MICRA placed a cap on noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.) in medical malpractice cases in the fixed amount of $250,000, and has not been increased since 1975. Had MICRA provided that the cap would be increased to keep pace with inflation, the current cap would be $1.1 million (the $250,000 cap in today’s dollars is equal to $57,600 in 1975 dollars).
The impetus for Proposition 46 was the deaths of two children, ten-year-old Troy Pack and seven-year-old Alana Pack, who were struck by a vehicle and killed while walking on a sidewalk by a prescription drug abusing driver who had fallen asleep while driving (it was determined that the driver had consumed vodka and had taken more than a dozen painkillers before her vehicle jumped a curb and killed the two children). The driver had been overprescribed thousands of narcotic drugs by multiple doctors at the same hospital as a result of doctor-shopping (where patients visit multiple doctors in order to obtain prescription drugs). Proposition 46 is referred to as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act.
If you have been seriously injured (or worse) as a result of medical malpractice in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek to consult with a California medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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