Santa Monica, CA – In another case of medical negligence almost too gruesome to believe, a hospital accused of letting a patient freeze to death in the morgue will never be held fully accountable because of a 38-year-old cap on malpractice damages in California.
The cap that limits accountability for negligence in cases involving the death of an elderly parent or child will be adjusted for 38 years of inflation by a patient safety initiative headed for the November ballot.
An analysis of campaign contribution reports reveals that White Memorial Medical Center and nine of its executives have given $5475 to political committees opposing the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act.
“The cap on damages in even the most egregious cases means hospitals have little incentive to change bad practices and prevent the next unnecessary death. It’s outrageous that even after such a horrific case White Memorial and its executives would give thousands of dollars to political committees fighting to keep it that way,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
A lawsuit brought by the family of Maria de Jesus Arroyo alleges that the 80-year-old grandmother woke in the morgue after being declared dead at White Memorial Medical Center. She struggled to escape before finally freezing to death, according to a pathologist who reviewed the case. In cases of negligence not involving wage loss or ongoing medical bills, such as the death of an elderly parent, the most a family can recover from the negligent medical provider is $250,000.
Last week, Bob Pack turned in the last of 844,000 signatures to qualify the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act for the November 2014 ballot. Mr. Pack lost his two young children, 10 year old Troy and 7 year old Alana, to a drugged driver who was overprescribed narcotics by multiple doctors at the same Kaiser hospital.
The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would:
• Index for inflation the medical negligence damage cap set by the legislature in California in 1975, but retain the cap on attorneys’ fees
• Require random drug and alcohol testing of doctors modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration’s testing of airline pilots, and testing after an adverse event in a hospital
• Require physicians to report suspected drug or alcohol abuse at work by a colleague
• Mandate that physicians check the state’s prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics and other addictive drugs to first-time patients
– 30 –