Originally created 02/19/03

Consumer group fights proposed cap on medical lawsuits



ATLANTA -- A group of medical malpractice victims gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to fight proposals to limit malpractice claims.

Georgia senators are considering a bill to cap pain-and-suffering jury awards at $250,000 for malpractice, with the same cap for a faulty medical product. Supporters say lawsuit limits will help doctors pay skyrocketing insurance premiums.

But a handful of people who said they were victims of malpractice spoke out against the bill Tuesday. One woman, who uses a wheelchair after having her feet and one hand amputated, tearfully called on legislators to vote against the bill.

"I can't describe the kind of pain I went through," said Janice Dixon, who received a settlement but is not allowed to reveal its terms.

"That money has to take care of me for the next 20 or 30 years because I can't take care of myself anymore," she said.

Georgia is one of many states where medical malpractice laws are being reviewed. Surgeons in three states have even walked off the job to protest the high cost of malpractice insurance.

The American Medical Association has listed Georgia among 12 "crisis" states where rising insurance costs could lead doctors to quit performing risky procedures. The Georgia bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On the Net:

Read Senate Bill 133: http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2003-04/fulltext/sb133.htm