Bill To Shield Some New Jersey Doctors From Liability Spurs Debate

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New Jersey may soon be among the states that have adopted legislation designed to shield retired physicians who volunteer their services from medical malpractice lawsuits. Bills A2178/S1165 would allow physicians to donate their services and time without having to purchase medical malpractice insurance. Malpractice insurance is said to be as costly as $100,000 a year, which restricts many retired physicians from volunteering.

This legislation has sparked a great deal of debate between the legal and medical fields, and so far no resolution has been identified. Legal experts tend to be opposed to the legislation, fearful that shielding physicians from medical malpractice lawsuits serves as a block to a person’s right to sue. They say the measure could be particularly detrimental to the rights of poor individuals who need the protection the most.

In contrast, medical minds believe that the legislation will encourage retired physicians looking to dedicate their time and services to help on the home front. They say many currently look to overseas projects. Proponents of the legislation state that the medical need in New Jersey is as real as anywhere in the world and should be allowed the same volunteer benefits. Proponents also hope that the legislation will help increase the number of volunteers and thus reduce the waiting period poor individuals may now face in getting needed specialty care.

To those in opposition, sponsors state that the bill would not shield against wanton or willful misconduct or gross negligence. Ultimately, there are both positive and negative components to this legislation, and lawmakers will likely need to find a balance between medicine and the law.

Medical malpractice lawsuits in New Jersey are taken very seriously, and with good reason. These cases are typically complex and may have time constraints, so that those who believe they have been victimized by acts of medical malpractice may need to move quickly in order to fully protect their rights.

Source: NJ Spotlight, “As Need for Volunteer MDs Rises, Waiving Malpractice Insurance is Reconsidered,” Beth Fitzgerald, May 23, 2012

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