Did you know there is underway right now an effort in the Georgia Senate to eliminate your Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial in medical malpractice cases? That’s right. A bill has been introduced (again), SB 86, that seeks to eliminate jury trials in medical malpractice claims. This bill was introduced by Senator Brandon Beach from Alpharetta, and this is, at least, the second time around for the bill. Last year the same bill was introduced and a coalition made up of odd bedfellows, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) and the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), opposed it and it died a slow death. Like Lazarus, it has now been resurrected.
Supporters of the bill make the wild claim that this bill would reduce so-called “defensive medicine” where doctors supposedly order unnecessary medical tests. I find such a claim outrageous and offensive. Doctors should, likewise, be offended by this strategy. I have talked with many doctors and taken many depositions of doctors. I have never found them to order what they know are unnecessary medical tests. For a doctor to order what he or she knows to be an unnecessary test (and get paid for it, by the way) would be fraudulent and would violate every ethical oath the physician has ever taken. So that cannot be the real issue with this piece of legislation.
Who is behind it? Not the doctors themselves, as evidenced by the opposition of MAG, the doctors’ professional association. Not the citizens of Georgia. There has been no rallying cry that doctors shouldn’t be held accountable as every other citizen may be with he or she commits negligence that results in injury to someone. There have been no “runaway” verdicts in Georgia, either. Statistics show that doctors and hospitals win almost 85%-90% of all medical malpractice trials in Georgia.