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Cloture Denied for S.B. 2061--A Victory for Mothers and Their Babies' Rights

S.B. 2061 Defeated & Prevented from Moving to Sentate Floor

February 24, 2004 -- Victims of medical malpractice involving obstetric or gynecological services can rest a little easier. The motion to move for cloture and bring S.B. 2061 to the Senate floor for consideration was defeated today, receiving only 48 of the 60 votes needed. Of the Senators who were present and voted, all of the Democrats except for Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted against S.B. 2061. Three Republican Senators voted against the bill as well going against the White House and Republican party-line. The three Senators who voted against S.B. 2061 were Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

Misleadingly named "Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care Act of 2003," the bill in all actuality restricted the rights of patients injured by obstetricians or other providers of obstetric and gynecological services. It would have provided protection for physicians, hospitals and HMOs from liability for providing OB/GYN services which resulted in harm to pregnant women, mothers and their babies. S.B. 2061 also would have put a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages and restricted the victim's rights to call witnesses.

Even though S.B. 2061 has been shelved, it appears that this will not daunt the current campaign going on in Washington to limit the rights of patients injured by medical malpractice. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) intends to bring two more medical malpractice bills to the Senate floor for consideration and vote. One seeks to protect emergency care providers and the other would protect physicians in rural and inner-city areas.

Similar legislation passed at the state level to limit patients' rights has not seemed to dampen the rise of the runaway costs of medical malpractice insurance--one of the stated intents of such legislation. In Ohio, Gov. Bob Taft signed S.B. 281 into law in January 2003. The law limits the amount courts can set on non-economic damages, imposes a four-year deadline for filing malpractice suits, and limits attorney fees. Since the enactment of the law in Ohio, some malpractice insurance rates have gone up 40 percent or more (Dayton Daily News, February 24, 2004).

In order to preserve the rights of medical malpractice victims, please take a moment to contact your Senator and urge them to make a NO vote on any measure that would limit an injured person's rights in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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