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Emergency Room staffers might get protection from malpractice lawsuits in Michigan

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
(file photo)

State lawmakers will discuss making it more difficult to sue emergency room doctors, nurses and technicians for malpractice on Thursday.

Livonia state representativeJohn Walsh is the sponsor ofHB 4354.   He says emergency room staffers should not have to worry about malpractice lawsuits while they provide potentially lifesaving treatment.

Walsh says he’s talked to ER doctors who fear they might be sued if there are complications that result from causes they were not aware of.

“They have been subject to lawsuits if a procedure caused some complications because maybe the patient was unconscious and unable to explain they have an allergy,” says Walsh. 

Personal injury attorneys oppose the bill.

Attorney Norm Tuckersays it’s a legal standard that will be almost impossible to prove in court, which he says is unfair to patients.

“You have no recourse,” says Tucker, “You could lose your job. Lose your health care. Sit in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. And there’s nothing you could do about it. No one would be responsible.”

A spokeswoman for the Michigan State Medical Society has the society is “supportive of the intent of the legislation”.  Though she adds, the MSMS is still reviewing the bill.    The Michigan Health and Hospital Association issued a statement saying the bill “raises more questions than it answers”.     At this point, the MHHS has not taken a position on the bill.     

Rep. John Walsh expects his legislation will undergo some changes in coming weeks as different groups weigh in.    His hope is that he will still be able to support it at the end of the process. 

The state House Judiciary committee is scheduled to discuss HB 4354 at 9am Thursday.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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