Advocates Call for Reforming Wisconsin's Medical Malpractice Laws

Sep 4, 2014

Credit Mercy Health / Flickr

Some people hope that the idea of medical malpractice reform will gain traction in Wisconsin, even if it’s not a current campaign issue. 

Advocates for reform say the current law arbitrarily limits who has standing to sue for damages.

Among those making that argument are Ann Jacobs, a Milwaukee attorney and incoming president of the organization called the Wisconsin Association for Justice; and Eric Rice of Gresham, Wisconsin. Rice has personally experienced the results of medical malpractice.

Fifteen years ago, Rice’s twenty-year-old daughter Erin was misdiagnosed with bacterial pneumonia due, he contends, to poor communication among doctors, incompetence and errors and the omission of  key information. Rice says the doctor who sent her home with antibiotics withheld knowledge of a heart abnormality shown in an electrocardiogram (EKG) and x-ray. Erin Rice died two weeks later.  

Rice says Wisconsin’s current laws - which limit who can sue for malpractice damages - make it difficult to ensure that similar errors don't occur again. “We wanted to find out the truth so this would never happen again to some other family,” says Rice.

The Wisconsin Association for Justice says its effort is about ensuring that any person harmed due to the misconduct or negligence of others has a fair day in court. “We have taken our judicial system and so warped it that the people who are seeking justice, responsibility, and accountability like the Rice family are shut out of the courthouse doors by virtue of Wisconsin’s law. That penalizes not only the families who have to endure the tragic loss of loved ones, it also penalizes us as tax payers because the people who cause harm aren’t held accountable,” says Jacobs.

Lake Effect also sought comment on the issue from the Wisconsin Medical Society, an association of physicians in the state, but did not receive a response before the deadline for today's show - an interview will air on a subsequent show.