The Medical Review Panel Act, which was approved by Kentucky’s House and Senate Republicans in 2016, is causing serious delays with medical malpractice claims.
Under the law, individuals are required to submit their medical malpractice claims to a panel before filing a lawsuit. The panel consists of a nonvoting lawyer and three voting health care professionals. Unless they can give good reasons, doctors and other professionals are required to serve if asked and are paid $300 for their time and expertise. After reviewing the evidence, the panel must decide if the standard of care was neglected and led to injury. While this is not binding, it can be used in court.
Since the enaction of this law, there have been 531 claims assigned to the panel. 58 have been examined, 13 have been adjudicated, 18 are pending, and 27 have been withdrawn, settled, or dismissed. The remaining 89 percent have yet to be attended to.
While many of the original proponents are still supporting the medical review panel idea, many lawyers and other professionals feel the process has been ineffective.
While reviewing the panel sessions that have taken place, it was found that few doctors or health care professionals serving on the panels actually knew about the law. Those that did were reluctant to serve. In addition to that, it is predicted that these panels are likely to stretch out the resolution of medical malpractice cases from an average of two years to three or four years.
Our own Tad Thomas provided his thoughts on the matter:
“We let the General Assembly know this bill was flawed from the outset. That it was unconstitutional, would do nothing to decrease alleged frivolous lawsuits and would merely harm the true victims of medical negligence. They should take this as a lesson that closing the courthouse doors to innocent victims is always a bad idea.”
At one time, nearly two-thirds of the states required medical review panels; however, that number has dropped to only 17 because most states have found these panels to be ineffective.
The administers of the program, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, has not yet commented on the numerous opinions regarding the medical review panels.