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Iowa medical malpractice legislation advances

An Iowa legislative effort some feel would help draw much-needed doctors to the state would mean big changes for how plaintiffs can secure damages following medical malpractice lawsuits. Per the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa Senate File 465 would set limits to how much plaintiffs can receive in non-economic damages for mental anguish, pain and suffering and related areas after suing on the basis of medical malpractice.

Proponents for the new legislation believe it would make Iowa more competitive to doctors than neighboring states, many of which have an easier time attracting trained physicians because of existing limits on malpractice awards and lower costs for medical liability premiums. Currently, Iowa is experiencing a physician shortage, ranking 42nd in the nation in terms of the number of physicians operating in the state, per capita. The new legislation, should it pass, would cap the amount that could be awarded to a plaintiff for non-economic damages at $250,000.

Opponents argue that the legislation essentially devalues human life by applying what is arguably a “one size fits all” approach to plaintiffs, some of whom have suffered permanent, life-changing injuries and trauma. Some also question the need and timing of the legislation, noting that the number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Iowa has tumbled drastically in recent years, falling more than 50 percent within the last 15-year period.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the problem in Iowa is not so much attracting doctors, but getting them to stay local. Over the last 11 or so years, less than 40 percent of Iowa’s graduating doctors stayed on to practice within state lines, despite the fact that the state ranked seventh in the nation in terms of the number of medical students per 100,000 residents. 

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