Oregon Governor Urges Mediation in Malpractice Cases

July 30, 2012

Gov. John Kitzhaber has proposed medical malpractice reforms to a committee appointed to review Oregon’s medical liability system, suggesting mediation efforts aimed at avoiding lawsuits.

Kitzhaber’s proposals would require the injured party and the doctor or health care provider to discuss circumstances of the problem, and include an apology from the provider if appropriate, the Oregonian reported Thursday.

A health care provider would be required to make an offer of compensation within 90 days or to decide no offer is warranted.

If the injured party is not satisfied, the matter goes to mediation. Only if that fails could a lawsuit be filed.

Kitzhaber’s said the recommendations could improve patient safety by helping physicians learn from errors, provide more effective compensation for injured people and reduce costs that arise from litigation and defensive medicine.

In the last legislative session, Republicans wanted to put limits on liability payouts and tried to get such a cap into a governor-supported bill overhauling the Oregon Health Plan.

Their effort failed, but Kitzhaber promised to pursue reforms in the 2013 session.

Kitzhaber appointed a work group earlier this year but also set up an informal advisory panel that included representatives from doctor and trial lawyer groups. It met behind closed doors, and Kitzhaber’s recommendations were a product of their talks.

The work group includes legislators, a trial lawyer and a doctor. It plans public meetings beginning next week.

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