Governor Branstad calls it an effort to keep doctors in Iowa. He is proposing a certificate of merit law that requires expert review in medical malpractice lawsuits. Some think it's a step in the right direction. Others call it an unnecessary hoop to jump through.
Branstad says frivolous lawsuits are harming the state's ability to recruit and retain doctors. His certificate of merit plan requires that a medical expert review the facts when a lawsuit is filed to verify injuries could have come from substandard care. In effect, allowing real claims to move forward and relieving the health care and judicial systems of the bad ones.
"It seems like that would be a good thing and helpful to prevent doctors from having to spend a lot of time practicing defense medicine," said Dr. Andrew Andresen, Director of Programming for the Genesis Family Medical Residency Program.
William Bribriesco, an attorney specializing in medical malpractice suits, disagrees with the whole thing. "There is not an avalanche of frivolous malpractice suits," said Bribriesco.
He says already in Iowa plaintiffs have 180 days to certify who their experts will be in a case. "The certificate of merit is in effect already in place in Iowa. It's only being designed to place a hurdle in the beginning of the lawsuit."
Bribriesco also works cases out of Illinois where there is a certificate of merit requirement, which he says increases litigation costs for the injured person. "It turns away meritorious cases because a lack of financing to get the experts," said Bribriesco.
He thinks there are untold inspiration behind this, as well as another proposal to cap non-economic damages. That would limit how much an injured person could be awarded for losing quality of life. "The motivation is to increase the insurance company's profits. That's the real motivation."