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Some states considering medical malpractice alternatives

Some North Carolina physicians and their patients may know that Georgia and several other states are considering a new administrative system to resolve medical malpractice claims. Proponents of the proposal say it would save money, help victims be compensated more quickly and allow doctors to learn from their mistakes.

In an opinion piece written for a Georgia newspaper, the former president of the Hospital Corporation of America advocated that instead of patients taking doctors to court, they would take their complaints before an administrative panel, which would consist of health care experts and a judge. He believes that such a method could quickly compensate harmed patients, and the new system would end the adversarial relationship between medical professionals and patients. It would also create an environment where doctors could openly admit their mistakes without fear of a lawsuit.

Medical malpractice claims in the U.S. are currently handled through litigation, but other countries use different methods to resolve them. For instance, Denmark's national system compensates victims of medical errors, but encourages doctors and hospitals to share data to reduce future mistakes. Some experts believe that adopting a similar system in the U.S. would save money and eliminate the culture of secrecy that surrounds many medical mistakes. Georgia's proposed overhaul, called the Patients Compensation System, is currently being considered by the state senate. Similar bills have been introduced in Florida, Maine, Montana and Tennessee.

Pending such a change, most hospital negligence victims still need to pursue their grievances through the court system. However, in some cases, a medical malpractice attorney can assist in seeking a negotiated settlement with the facility and its insurer.

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