AARP Bulletin-Volume 51- #2-March 2010-According to this article a retiree lost his right leg, part of his left foot, a kidney and much of hearing as a result of MRSA (a form of staph infection) after having a pace maker implanted in 2004. Apparently, doctors implanted a pace maker in the patient, hoping to stabilize him after he suffered a heart attack. But within weeks, the patient was suffering from MRSA. Apparently doctors later removed golf-ball-size masses of infection. Lawsuit was filed and a jury determined the doctors were negligent and in 2008 awarded 2.6 million dollars, more than half of which was to compensate for non economic damages, including pain and suffering of the patient and his wife. Unfortunately, because of caps on medical malpractice awards (such as we have in Florida) judge later reduced the award on a cutting the non economic share of money allocated by the jury to $350,000 for a state statue the capped such damages. The plaintiff and his wife appealed to the Supreme Court of that state and the case drew national attention. Similar caps on non economic awards are being challenged in other states alleging that persons injured by negligence of others should not be deprived a full compensation for their injuries. According to the article lost earnings alone dont adequately compensate older people, who are near their end of their careers or retired and those with low incomes. Simply stated caps on non economic damages mean that no matter how aggresses an injury victims suffers because of anothers negligence the cost to the responsible party for pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, emotional harm and other non-dollar items will never exceed a previously set specified amount of money. The plaintiff in this article, like most people, stated that getting his life back would mean more to him than any amount of money. A lawsuit is simply a way to hold the responsible people accountable. Non economic damages such as pain and suffering are more difficult to measure than economic losses such as medical bills or loss wages. However, the article points out, "it is vital that this sort of personal, intimate harm is addressed, even it is harder to measure."
The article closes by stating "Ultimately, older people are devalued by these caps. They can not be made whole, no matter how much pain and suffering they have endured." "Medicine, especially hospital medicine and procedures, is a huge business with lots of sloppiness, and it needs to be held accountable."
We will wait and see what the Supreme Courts of various states have to say in this regard.
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