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WHITE PLAINS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

AARP COMES OUT AGAINST MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CAPS IN NY

ASSEMBLY MAKES RIGHT MOVE ON REJECTING

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CAPS

Statement by

Lois Wagh Aronstein

AARP New York State Director

March 15, 2011

AARP commends the leadership of Assembly Speaker Silver and the Assembly for putting forth a budget proposal that rejects the Governor’s proposal to severely restrict consumers’ ability to recover damages in medical malpractice cases. We are disappointed that the Senate did not similarly reject this proposal in their budget.

The Governor’s proposal would impose an unreasonable and artificial cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering awards. This proposal will hurt many consumers, particularly seniors, by making it much harder for these individuals to obtain justice in the courts when they have been injured by the negligence of others. Older persons, who have few, if any economic damages because they may no longer be employed, will not be fully and fairly compensated if such a cap were imposed.

Preventable medical injuries that are the result of medical errors are widespread and costly. Older patients are particularly vulnerable to preventable medical injury. An AARP Public Policy Institute paper found that at least six percent of hospitalized patients age 65 and older suffer a treatment-caused injury serious enough to result in a measurable disability or to prolong their hospital stay. This is approximately twice the rate of injury in younger patients.

A $250,000 cap could allow those who caused the injury to avoid being held fully accountable for the pain and suffering they have caused. Capping non-economic damages, particularly for this vulnerable population, sends the message that these individuals can be harmed by the negligence of others without any serious financial consequences. It will simply be another cost of doing business. We cannot let this happen in our state.

AARP strongly believes that a final budget should not include this very harmful cap on a consumer’s ability to seek justice for the pain and suffering caused by medical negligence.