Unlike many traditional tort reforms, creating health courts would address the root problems with the current medical justice system – unreliability, compensation for few injured patients, and patient safety.
4) How will health courts work in practice?
The outlines of a health court can vary, but the basic components are very straightforward. The hallmark of health courts are judges with medical training dedicated full-time to resolving healthcare disputes. They will issue written rulings in every case to provide guidance on proper standards of care. These rulings will provide guidance for future cases on which both doctors and patients can rely. Health court judges will have the authority to hire neutral experts, instead of the competing experts-for-hire who now confuse and prolong malpractice cases, not to mention drive up costs. Judges will award non-economic damages (over and above medical costs and lost wages) in accordance with a schedule of benefits that will provide predetermined amounts for specific types of injuries and taking into account patient circumstances. As with similar administrative courts that already exist in other areas of law – for tax disputes, workers’ compensation, and vaccine liability, among others – there will be no juries. To assure uniformity and predictability, each ruling can be appealed to a new Medical Appellate Court.
To reduce legal fees and the emotional toil, proceedings will be expedited, so that injured patients will keep more of any award. Patients will still have their own lawyers, but the fees will be less than they are today because the cases will take months, not years.
Tomorrow: Will health courts cost more than the current system?