“We have to become smarter medical consumers”

Wisconsin Association for Justice faults new patient law

December 16, 2013 (Madison) Christopher Stombaugh, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, released the following statement on a new law Governor Walker signed which no longer requires doctors to give patients as much information about alternative treatments.

 “Instead of preserving a standard of care putting patients first, this law lets doctors decide what a patient should know instead of exploring all options, said Stombaugh.  Patients lose, their families lose, and Wisconsin’s health care reputation takes a big step backwards.”

The bill changes the law from a “reasonable patient standard,” to a “reasonable physician standard.”

Stombaugh said he is appalled patients and their families will not have to be told of potential life-saving treatments for any conditions the physician has not included in the final diagnosis.

“This means patients must be smarter about their own medical care,” said Stombaugh.  “Instead of trusting the doctor to explain all of our options, we have to dig deeper, ask more questions, and become smarter medical consumers.”

Historically, Wisconsin is the most difficult state in the nation for patients – to get justice for medical malpractice injuries – to recover damages.  It’s estimated  that just over 27,000 Wisconsin people die or are injured each year because of medical errors and another 3,500 die each year because of medical negligence.

In 2011, only 53 Wisconsin people recovered compensation for injuries or death caused by doctor negligence.  Wisconsin ranked 50th of the fifty states and the District of Columbia in the number of payments per population.  (1: 107,769)

In another sign of the obstacles Wisconsin families have in receiving compensation for their injuries, the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund has assets of more than $1 billion dollars and an estimated surplus of more than $445 million dollars.  In fact, the fund now has more money on hand  than it has paid out since it was created in 1975.

“There is an urban myth that Wisconsinites are suing their doctors,” said Stombaugh, “and it just isn’t true.”  In 2012, only 117 medical malpractice cases were filed in all of Wisconsin. “This law is a step backwards in patient care.  Instead of being able to completely trust your doctor you have to ask what they aren’t telling you.”

Jerry Huffman
Communications and Political Affairs Director
Wisconsin Association for Justice


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