Voters Reject Drug Tests For Doctors, Medical Malpractice Proposition
UPDATE: 9:23 p.m. "No" voters win the day
The Associated Press reports that voters have rejected mandatory drug tests for doctors, and an increase on malpractice settlements.
UPDATE: 8:15 p.m.: Prop. 46 Being Rejected By Voters In Early Returns
Proposition 46, which would raise medical malpractice awards, is trailing badly — with 73 percent of voters rejecting it — in early returns.
California voters were asked whether to increase the monetary awards that can be won by the people who are harmed by medical malpractice.
Proposition 46 promises to enhance patient safety in California, but opponents say it's just a money grab by trial attorneys.
Proposition 46 would lift California's nearly 40-year-old cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits from $250,000 to $1.1 million. It would subject doctors to random drug and alcohol tests. And it would require physicians who prescribe narcotics to use the CURES system, a statewide database that can indicate whether a patient is doctor shopping for dangerous drugs.
The Journal of Patient Safety estimates more than 400,000 Americans die each year as the result of medical mistakes.
A Field Poll released early this summer showed 58 percent of likely voters supported Proposition 46.
But the latest Field Poll, released Friday, showed support has taken a nose dive: just 32 percent of likely voters said they favor the measure.
Who's In Favor Of Prop. 46 And Why?
The Santa Monica-based nonprofit Consumer Watchdog is the driving force behind Proposition 46.
The group's executive director, Carmen Balber, argued California's cap on pain and suffering damages is so low that it's difficult for people who've been harmed by medical malpractice to find an attorney willing to represent them. She said raising the cap would give Californians better access to the courts.
Balber said the measure's other provision also would improve patient safety.
"Deterring substance abuse, whether it’s by physicians or patients, and deterring medical negligence, is going to save lives across the board,” she said.
Who's Against Prop. 46 And Why?
The "No on Prop. 46" campaign was funded primarily by malpractice insurance companies. Opponents also included the California Medical Association and the California Teachers Association.
Dr. Robert Wailes is a specialist in pain medicine and former president of the San Diego County Medical Society. He contends Proposition 46 would drive up the cost of medical malpractice insurance.
“That cost is going to be passed onto all of us. It increases the cost for health care,” he said.
Wailes said the CURES system isn't fully functional and wouldn't be able to handle all of the increased inquiries if Proposition 46 were to pass. In addition, he argued, drug testing of doctors is just a smoke screen to divert attention away from trial attorneys, who he contends would be the main beneficiaries of the measure.