Ariz. Legislature Sends Med-Mal Bill to Governor

April 20, 2005

A medical-malpractice bill passed by the Arizona Legislature and sent to Gov. Janet Napolitano faces an uncertain future.

The Senate completed legislative action on the bill (SB 1036) by voting 23-6 April 18 to accept changes made by the House to a previous Senate-approved version.

Supporters say the bill would help restrain physicians’ rising malpractice insurance premiums and otherwise encourage doctors to practice in Arizona. Critics said it would make it harder to press legitimate claims against doctors for neglect or wrongdoing.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale, said she was optimistic that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano will sign it.

A spokeswoman for Napolitano last week declined to predict whether the governor would sign the bill. Napolitano previously has said any changes in laws on malpractice suits needed to be accompanied by insurance reforms.

One provision of the bill would prevent doctors’ apologies and offers of condolences to patients and their families from being used in court against the doctors.

A more controversial provision would tighten requirements for credentials of expert witnesses.

Supporters said that provision would help weed out frivolous lawsuits while opponents said it would hinder even well-founded claims and may be built on shaky legal ground.

The bill is supported by physicians, hospitals and business lobbies and opposed by the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association.

During the April 18 Senate vote, Republican Sen. Marilyn Jarrett of Mesa cited personal circumstances in voting against the bill.

Jarrett said she walks with a limp due to a defective prosthetic and that she felt that proponents of the bill weren’t doing anything to help malpractice victims.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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