On January 12, 2012, a Maryland medical malpractice jury returned a verdict in the amount of $1 million in favor of a 67-year-old Maryland woman who suffered near-total blindness allegedly as a result of medical malpractice by her ophthalmologist. The verdict will be reduced to $620,000 due to the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages that was in effect when the latest act of alleged medical malpractice occurred in mid-2003.
The medical malpractice case claimed that the woman’s diabetic retinopathy in both eyes was misdiagnosed and mistreated by her ophthalmologist, beginning in September, 2001. The ophthalmologist performed laser surgery on both eyes in November, 2001. Over the next two years of treatment, the woman’s condition progressed to proliferative retinopathy. In the latter part of 2003, the ophthalmologist performed laser surgery on the woman’s left eye, and twice on her right eye. The medical malpractice claim alleged that the laser surgery to her right eye should have been done in September, 2002, instead of October, 2003, which would have preserved her sight in her right eye (the eyesight in her left eye would not have been completely saved even if the surgery had been performed earlier).
The ophthalmologist’s attorney contended that the vision loss in the woman’s right eye was due to a sudden detached retina that could not have been anticipated. A decision on whether to appeal the jury’s decision has not been made. The woman’s husband was originally a plaintiff in the medical malpractice case but he died while the case was pending.
Source: The Daily Record, January 17, 2012
Assuming that the woman’s sight could have been saved if timely and properly treated by her ophthalmologist, as the jury apparently determined, is $620,000 (the amount that the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages law requires that the jury’s $1 million verdict be reduced to) fair compensation for such a devastating loss? Would anyone accept $620,000 in exchange for loss of their eyesight?
Is not the automatic and rigid reduction of the jury’s considered and determined verdict to the amount of an artificial cap on noneconomic damages a violation of the woman’s due process and equal protection rights (the decisions of our criminal and civil juries are supposed to be sacrosanct under the vast majority of situations — the juries in Maryland are never advised that there is a cap on noneconomic damages or the amount of the cap — why does Maryland (and many other states) not trust their juries?).
The loss of eyesight is a devastating and debilitating loss — no longer can the woman drive her motor vehicle (which affects her independence), enjoy the view of the setting sun, or marvel at the brightness of her grandchildren’s smiles. What is the value of a life that was once lived in the light now being subjected to an unrelenting life sentence of darkness?
If you have been victimized by medical malpractice, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney regarding your right to file a medical malpractice claim against the negligent medical provider(s).
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