January 1, 2015
A Maryland state task force, created by the Maryland Assembly, has made recommendations for the state of Maryland to set up a birth injury fund. The fund will aim to help babies who develop neurological injuries during or shortly after delivery.
According to reports, the recommended birth injury fund would be modeled after Virginia and Florida, two states that have already developed a “no fault” birth injury fund, meaning that compensation will be available to families of injured infants, regardless of how the birth injury occurred. Experts feel that this will help families pay for overwhelming medical expenses without having to go through the court system and filing lawsuits.
“The fund means babies born with injuries get compensation even when there wasn’t negligence but the outcome was just bad,” director of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Andrew J. Satin said. “One reason people sue when doctors have done nothing wrong is because of the burden of caring for babies born with challenges.”
In addition, Dr. Satin believes that a new birth injury fund for Maryland will ultimately lead to addressing a bigger issue: medical malpractice lawsuits leading to a decline in medical care. Generally, when a medical malpractice lawsuit is won by a plaintiff, medical providers are obligated to pay millions.
For example, Johns Hopkins Hospital and MedStar Harbor Hospital, both in Maryland, recently lost multi-million dollar medical malpractice lawsuits. These high-priced lawsuits, according to Satin, may result in a lack of healthcare providers. In fact, statistics show that there is already a sharp decrease in the amount of prenatal care received in Baltimore between 1995 through 2011.
Not Everyone Wants a Birth Injury Fund in Maryland
Some people, on the other hand, are against the birth injury fund. Michael Bennett, for example, an advocate for patients’ rights, feels that creating such a fund will only allow negligent healthcare providers to get away with shoddy medical care.
“As I see it, any such fund would inevitably lead to a lack of meaningful accountability, which would lead to further negligence, and inevitably hurt the victims and their families with unfair and unjust compensation,” Bennett said.
Several birth injury attorneys are also against the fund, stating that the true victims will get cheated out of justice, including the loss of compensation that the babies may have made if they were not injured. Additionally, some attorneys point out that Virginia’s birth injury fund already has deficits, which can threaten future payouts.
Another concern is how the fund will actually be funded and who will benefit. Although it’s been said that physicians and nurses would have to pay a certain amount each month, the details are still sketchy on what exactly will be covered. For instance, MedStar Health is in favor of the birth injury fund as long as it covers most injuries and not just the selected ones.
Learning From Past Mistakes
Regardless, there are many professionals that are pushing for the fund. Dr. Dan Morhaim, a Maryland resident and a sponsor in the House, feels that Maryland can learn from the mistakes that other states have already made.
“The goal is to get people the help they need without having to go through a protracted litigation,” said Morhaim. “It’s like the lottery now, with some winners and some who get no relief.”