by Max Brantley
I'm just hearing now about Sen. Jonathan Dismang's SB 1162, already zipped through the Senate, which would do far more damage to the interests of old people in nursing homes than a change in Medicaid reimbursement rates. It would effectively prohibit wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes.
As described by a representative of the Arkanasas Trial Lawyers Association:
This bill is a nice little triple threat. It starts off by eliminating all wrongful death claims from medical malpractice cases in Arkansas. So if someone dies from neglect in a hospital or because of improper treatment, the family won’t be able to bring a wrongful death claim. Then it follows that up by turning all nursing home negligence cases into medical malpractice cases. So now, if a nursing home fails to give someone’s grandmother water and they die because of dehydration, it’s now a medical malpractice case instead of ordinary neglect and you won’t be able to file a wrongful death claim. Presto, change-o.
To top it all off, it guts Arkansas’ Residents Rights Act, which was created to ensure that our loved ones are given their basic rights and dignities. It was originally passed in order to provide for the enforcement of basic standards for the health, care, and treatment of those in long-term care facilities. This bill strips the civil enforcement of these provisions rendering it useless in ensuring accountability.
I'm awaiting Dismang's explanation for why this is a good thing. It was up for an amendment in Senate committee this morning.
UPDATE: Dismang said it was not his intent to end wrongful death claims and the bill would be amended if it does so in current form.
UPDATE II: A further note from Sen. Dismang:
Should have amendment on wrongful death soon. Will strike all of section 2.
UPDATE III: Dismang has endeavored to further explain what this bill is really about, but hasn't yet done a very good job of it. It's pretty clear it's the work of the nursing home industry. Trial lawyers think it's likely to die in the House Judiciary Committee.