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Pack Patient Safety Act

Pack Patient Safety Act

Come November 4, 2014 on the ballot is a statute that would increase the cap on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in California. The title of the ballot in its entirety is, “Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute.”

The official summary is:

“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.”

The current MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act) was passed in August of 1975 as a result of doctors and medical institutions paying 1M or more in damages, MICRA capped medical malpractice suits to 250K. The objective was to decrease medical malpractice liability premiums for healthcare providers. By lowering the cost of healthcare services and increasing their availability, they could maintain financial solvency. Over the years, MICRA has been chipped at but remains intact.

Today, the controversy surrounding the upcoming PPSA (Pack Patient Safety Act) is multi-fold. Some people believe that the title of the ballot, “Drug and alcohol testing of doctors” was intentionally misleading to get it on the ballot.

If the PPSA is approved by voters, the initiative will enforce the below:

  • Increase the state’s cap on damages that can be assessed in medical negligence lawsuits to over $1 million from the current cap of $250,000.
  • Require drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board.
  • Require the California Medical Board to suspend doctors pending investigation of positive tests and take disciplinary action if the doctor was impaired while on duty.
  • Require health care practitioners to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence.
  • Require health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.

Let’s examine this for a moment, shouldn’t practitioners be held to the same standards that many employees are? Numerous corporations routinely drug test their employees. If we’re talking about medical negligence – when a doctor literally has your life in his hands – should they be less accountable?

“The measure, if approved will be the first law in the United States to require the random drug testing of physicians.”

What I find so incredulous is that doctors aren’t routinely tested for drug and alcohol abuse on the job. If you’re still convinced that PPSA isn’t a worthy endeavor, read this article from USA Today that shows more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides are abusing or dependent on prescription drugs in a given year, putting patients at risk.

Consider this, “The Mission of the Medical Board of California

The mission of the Medical Board of California is to protect health care consumers through the proper licensing and regulation of physicians and surgeons and certain allied health care professions and through the vigorous, objective enforcement of the Medical Practice Act, and to promote access to quality medical care through the Board’s licensing and regulatory functions.

And, yet, patients are the ones losing their lives or coming dangerously close.

While the cost of damages in medical malpractice cases could far exceed hundreds of millions of dollars that will increase healthcare costs, which is a problem, we’re talking about wrongful death and catastrophic injury at the hands of medical professionals. Of course, you can’t put a price-tag on a human being. But, when you’ve lost someone you love because of a negligent medical professional, ensuring their accountability and having them drug tested seems, at the very least, humane and decent.

According to Consumer Watchdog’s flyer, they made the following arguments:

“According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the country behind only heart disease and cancer. As many as 440,000 people die each year from preventable medical negligence. That’s like a 747 crashing every 10 hours.”

“The California Medical Board estimates that almost one-in-five doctors (18%) suffer from drug and/or alcohol abuse at some point during their careers – and leading medical safety experts have called for random drug testing to curb substance abuse and ensure patient safety.”

“The Journal of the American Medical Association found that doctors are the biggest suppliers for chronic prescription drug abusers, and called for the mandatory usage of state prescription drug databases… A 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation found that drugs prescribed by doctors caused or contributed to nearly half of recent prescription overdose deaths in Southern California.”

Sound off in comments and tell us what you think about PPSA. Have you been in a situation of this nature? How do you think medical professionals should be treated regarding drug tests?

-Statistics courtesy of BallotPedia.org

About the Author

Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.


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