I am writing in response to Wednesday’s article entitled “Beach: Patient bill at subcommittee.” The article identified witnesses paraded before the committee to testify on behalf of the deep-pocketed special interest group behind Senate Bill 141. However, through what I am sure was an inadvertent oversight, the Cherokee Tribune failed to include any mention of the widespread and well-reasoned opposition to the senator’s bill.
For example, former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, hired by Georgia doctors to study the constitutionality of the bill, testified that the bill would strip Georgia citizens’ constitutional right to have their medical malpractice claims decided by an unbiased jury of fellow citizens.
This right is embedded in our Bill of Rights and in the Georgia Constitution, and the Legislature cannot take that right away from our citizens. Thus, as Bowers concluded, “[SB 141] hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hades of withstanding constitutional scrutiny. I don’t know how to make it any plainer.”
Additionally, the largest organization representing doctors in our state testified to the harm that this bill would inflict upon our healthcare providers and, ultimately, our citizens and their patients.
An emergency room doctor testified against the bill. A family physician testified against the bill. A general surgeon testified against the bill. The state’s largest medical malpractice insurance carrier testified against the bill. And, yes, our organization testified against the bill. In fact, the only testimony in favor of the bill was given by members of the organization pushing the bill and their paid lobbyists.
Under Beach’s proposal, long gone would be the current jury system, which relies on the common sense and impartial judgment of unbiased citizens. Instead, this newly-crafted agency would empower a panel of doctors to sit alone in judgment over their colleagues and fellow physicians who have acted negligently and harmed patients – the ultimate ‘fox guarding the henhouse’ scenario.
Georgians deserve better than that. And readers of the Cherokee Tribune, like Cherokee County jurors, deserve to be presented with both sides of the story so that they can come to their own conclusions on the merits — or lack thereof — of Senate Bill 141.
Georgia Trial Lawyers Association