Three states approved ballot measures addressing medical liability costs,
while a measure in one state—Oregon—failed. Ballot measure 35 in
Oregon would have amended the state's constitution to restore a $500,000 cap
on noneconomic damage awards in medical liability cases (with an annual
Consumer Price Index adjustment). That cap was first enacted in 1987 but was
overturned by the state supreme court in 1999.
According to the Oregon State Board of Elections, the measure was narrowly
defeated, with 50.6 percent of voters opposed.
The AMA, which has made medical liability reform its top legislative
agenda, expressed disappointment about the vote in Oregon.
"The Oregon Medical Association and its physician members worked
tirelessly to present the facts because they did not want to see patients'
access to health care deteriorate any further," said AMA President John
C. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H. "Thousands of Oregon physicians, hospitals,
nurses, allied health professionals, and the long-term-care industry did
everything possible to take the high road on behalf of their patients.
"As a result of the narrow margin against Ballot Measure 35, however,
Oregon patients should not be surprised to see greater numbers of family
practitioners, obstetricians, neurosurgeons, and other needed specialists
restrict their services, relocate to other states, and retire
"Recruiting new physicians to Oregon also may become more difficult.
As the crisis worsens, Oregonians will demand action, and in the end, the
voice of the people will break through the personal-injury lawyers'
In three other states, ballot measures addressing medical liability costs