In Friday’s edition of the Cherokee Tribune, state Sen. Brandon Beach touts a legislative proposal that would take away Georgia citizens’ right to trial by jury when they have been harmed through the negligence of their health care provider (“Legislative proposal could reduce health care costs”).
The 7th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every American the right to trial by jury. Thomas Jefferson considered the right to trial by jury “as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Alexander Hamilton said “the civil jury is a valuable safeguard to liberty.”
Senate Bill 141, known as the “Patient Injury Act,” seeks to unconstitutionally replace our time-tested civil jury system with a burdensome, taxpayer-funded government bureaucracy in which doctors would sit in judgment over the conduct — or lack thereof — of their peers.
Georgians would not stand for a legal system in which truck drivers sat alone in judgment of their fellow truck drivers. No one would support allowing lawyers alone to judge the fault of a fellow lawyer sued for legal malpractice.
Why, then, should Georgia patients have to forfeit their constitutionally protected right to a trial by a jury of their peers in order to shield negligent doctors from accountability? This proposal is the ultimate fox guarding the henhouse scenario.
Further, the costs of the patient compensation scheme that Sen. Beach proposes are grossly understated by the senator and the health care industry special interest group that wrote the bill for him. And, the savings they claim will follow the implementation of their newly created government bureaucracy are equally exaggerated.
For example, they have touted a 2012 study by the consulting firm AON, which was intended to estimate the costs of implementing SB 141 in Georgia. However, on page nine of that very study, AON concludes that PCS will increase the cost of Georgia’s medical negligence system by 13 percent.
Independent industry experts who have reviewed the AON study find that it is both highly speculative and relies on numerous assumptions that the PCS proponents insisted upon, and instead have found that the proposal is likely to increase costs by 65 percent, at the very least. Why would Georgia taxpayers support a system that, while also lacking any objective data that supports Beach’s claims, would substantially increase not only their costs but also the costs to their doctors?
Creating a new government-run bureaucracy will not be effective in holding substandard health care providers accountable for the harm they do to Georgia patients, nor will it have a deterrent effect on health care costs in our state. Instead, this bill will only serve to shield dangerous health care providers from answering for their harmful practices.
Georgians deserve better.
Marion T. Pope Jr. Retired Chief Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals and Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit
Jonathan A. Pope Attorney, Hasty Pope LLP
Tom Pope III Attorney, Hasty Pope LLP