In November 2014, California voters will have the opportunity to support Proposition 46, the Pack Patient Safety Act. In the past, I was not a big fan of many California propositions because they were often driven by special interest groups. However, Proposition 46 is a necessary change to blast through the stranglehold lobbyist and big money donors have on our government representatives. Proposition 46 is one of those proposals which needs voters’ approval because legislators do not have the courage to modify an unjust law. Why are they cowards? Because if they backed this law, the flow of money to their campaign funds would cease from insurance companies, major health care organizations and doctors. Proposition 46 is designed to benefit and protect patients from negligent doctors and hospitals. It addresses the substance abuse problem in the medical industry and better regulates the misuse of prescription drugs. Finally, it adjusts the arbitrary monetary cap on medical malpractice claims to adjust it with the rate of inflation.

The Substance Abuse Problem: Studies show that during their careers, up to one in five doctors suffer from a substance abuse problem. That is a staggering number. The Journal of the American Medicine Association did a self-evaluation study of 9600 physicians. Only 59% of these physicians actually participated in the study. (That means 41% of the physicians aren’t willing to take the time to identify a problem.) JAMA learned from this "self-reported" study, that physicians were more likely to use alcohol and two types of prescription medications—minor opiates and benzodiazepine tranquilizers. They used self-prescribed substances for self-treatment, and illicit substances and alcohol for recreational purposes. Those responsible for the study stated: "A unique concern for physicians, however, is their high rate of self-treatment with controlled medications—a practice that could increase their risk of drug abuse or dependence." Prevalence of Substance Use Among US Physicians, JAMA, May 1992.

The Uncontrolled Distribution of Prescription Drugs: The State of California has a database known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (C.U.R.E.S). This database contains over 100 million entries of controlled substance drugs that were dispensed in California. Unfortunately, this database is seriously under utilized by physicians prescribing narcotics and painkillers. When properly utilized, it makes it easier for doctors and pharmacists to quickly review controlled substance information to identify and deter drug abuse and diversion of medications. Why is this so important? The CDC reports: "Although many types of prescription drugs are abused, there is currently a growing, deadly epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers—also called opioid pain relievers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the US parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers. These drugs were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined." Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic does not take into account the number of deaths caused to others by those abusing these prescription painkillers from traffic collisions and other negligent or intentional acts. Proposition 46 requires use of C.U.R.E.S for certain controlled substances.

Raising the 1975 Medical Malpractice Limits: In 1975, the State Legislature passed a law called the "Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975." (MICRA) This law imposed an arbitrary cap, or limit, of $250,000.00 for what is called non-economic damages. These damages include such things as pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of a loved one, etc. That cap has not changed since 1975. Why is this fixed cap unfair? Consider three examples of cases handled by my office: A wife and mother of six young children died from the medical negligence of a doctor. The family’s recovery for this unnecessary loss is limited to $250,000.00 for their emotional loss of their mother. A man entered the emergency room with a work injury. The doctor read the CT scan improperly. The patient was sent home. Several days later he returned with massive sepsis (infection) from a perforated bowel. He ended up hospitalized for months with a large open hole in his abdomen. He was limited to $250,000.00 for the doctor’s negligence. Finally, a woman underwent back surgery and through medical error she ended up paraplegic. She too was limited to $250,000.00 for living the rest of her life in a wheelchair. If these injuries were caused some other way besides medical negligence, no artificial limit on the damage would apply. Consider that the value of $250,000.00 in today’s money, compared to 1975, after taking into account inflation for the past 38 years. That money is worth only $56,431.28. Is that all human life or pain free living is worth? Proposition 46 reverses that trend and readjusts the cap to keep up with inflation. In this manner, an injury to a person in the future will not be worth less merely due to inflation. Who benefits by this cap? The insurance companies, and the negligent healthcare service providers. Who will fight against Proposition 46? The insurance companies, big medical care providers, doctors and those who gain advantage of a repressive law. They have started the fight. Who benefits

From passage of Proposition 46? All those who receive medical care.

Make your voice heard. Make your vote count. Remember, if we don’t vote, we only have ourselves to blame when we or a loved one falls victim to medical negligence or prescription drug abuse. Please join me in spreading the word to vote "yes" on this proposition. The insurance companies are already devoting more than $40 million to defeat Proposition 46. As a result, the advocates of this law will be outspent by more that 8 to 1. But each vote counts the same, unless that vote is not cast.

Please Vote Yes on Proposition 46.

David Ricks
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Rancho Cucamonga Personal Injury Lawyer Serving the Inland Empire Community