Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania Congress member proposes medical records bill

We recently spoke of proposals in the Pennsylvania House providing immunity from medical malpractice for suppliers of medical information to electronic databases. Now Proposals are making their way through Congress to create immunity at a federal level for providers of these same electronic medical records.

The purpose is to allow more accurate reporting concerning potential errors without at the same time holding those individuals reporting their errors liable for admitting to a mistake. "Many providers are reluctant to use electronic records," Pennsylvania Congressman, Tom Marino was quoted as saying, "because they believe the practice will leave them more vulnerable to unnecessary legal action." Congressman Marino also happens to be a sponsor of the bill.

It's not surprising that such a bill would be controversial as such legislation may prevent those patients injured due to medical malpractice from ever being compensated. Without sanctions for those responsible for medical errors, doctors, hospitals and medical providers may not have any incentive to improve safety and implement procedures preventing such errors from occurring to begin with.

It will continue being a matter of debate whether providing such legal immunity will prevent or actually promote medical malpractice. We can safely say that medical malpractice will continue with whatever legislation Congress happens to push through into law.

Medical malpractice takes many forms and can include doctor's errors, hospital errors, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, wrongfully prescribed medicines, neglect and faulty recordkeeping. The legislation defining medical malpractice is complex and future legislation will probably not simplify matters. What is clear is that medical malpractice can be devastating for patients and their family and possibly result in irreversible injuries.

Source: The Times Leader, "Marino's records bill contentious," by Jonathan Riskind, Dec. 2, 2011

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