Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010
Image for MBA Secretary Catalano testifies on medical malpractice reform
Photograph by Bill Archambeault
MBA Secretary Jeffrey N. Catalano, foreground, testifies before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Catalano testifies on medical malpractice reform

Massachusetts Bar Association Secretary Jeffrey N. Catalano testified at a Statehouse hearing on Jan. 28 before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding various medical malpractice bills.

Catalano, a partner at Todd & Weld LLP in Boston, testified against House Bill 1332, otherwise called the "apology bill."

The bill, in part, would make any apology or expression of sympathy or regret by a doctor or health care worker to a patient or their family inadmissible at trial. However, the bill also excludes from evidence any acknowledgement of "mistake or error." Thus, a health care provider could admit a mistake to the patient, but then later vigorously defend his or her actions in court.

"The MBA is not opposed to letting doctors apologize and not holding that against them," Catalano told the committee. "In fact, there is a statute that presently allows health care providers to do so without having it used against them. The problem is that the proposed legislation is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It would impose yet another obstacle for patients in getting to the truth."

Hospital records by themselves can be inadequate in establishing what happens to patients, Catalano said, and the information provided by doctors and nurses can be crucial to clarifying how mistakes were made and by whom.

Catalano also spoke in favor of House Bill 1573, which would amend Section 85K of Chapter 231 to increase the liability limit of hospitals from $20,000 to $500,000.

"The injustice this cap does is hard to describe," he said. "The amendment to this statute is long overdue."

The MBA also submitted written testimony regarding a number of tort reform bills.

For the full article on Catalano's testimony, look in the February Lawyers Journal.

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