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Government News
Voters Give Split Decision On Malpractice Tort Reform
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 24 page 9-9

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 early."

"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' smokescreens."

In three other states, ballot measures addressing medical liability costs were successful.

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