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The Madison County Record: For Abigaile LeBron

The Madison County Record
02.08.2009

Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr., wrote the following letter to the Madison County Record, which was published on February 8, 2009, in response to a doctors' letter regarding medical malpractice reform.

For Abigaile LeBron

Dr. Ahemd and Dr. Hamilton continue to spread untruths regarding the state of Illinois’ health care prior to the unfair Medical Malpractice Reform Act of 2005 being signed into law.

Their Letter to the Editor on Feb. 1 makes the claim that prior to the law’s enactment in 2005, our state was in “chaos.” However, the American Medical Association’s very own data contained in the recent “Physician Characteristics and Distribution” in the United States, mocks this claim.

Doctors it seems, never did begin this exodus from our state that the doctors boldly claim. Moreover, there has not been an explosion of medical malpractice cases. Sadly, this was all propaganda put forth by an advertising campaign paid for by the state’s largest medical malpractice insurer.

The law enacted in 2005 is nothing new to the state of Illinois. In fact, twice before this type of law was enacted and subsequently struck down as a violation of the Illinois State Constitution. Our state’s highest court has twice decided in favor of patients and against the insurance companies seeking to protect their own profits.

The current case before the Illinois Supreme Court is about a little girl named Abigaile LeBron. Abigaile is a three-year-old girl whose life has been forever changed by the severe brain damage she suffered as a result of medical negligence. It is likely that Abigaile will have to be fed through a tube for the rest of her life. She will never develop cognitively or physically as her peers do. And she will likely never live independently.

The arbitrary cap that is part of the 2005 law has been castigated as a one-sized fits all approach that does not protect those who have been most harmed by medical and hospital negligence. The caps ordain that a little girl like Abigaile, who suffers from severe brain damage as a result of medical negligence, should be entitled to the same monetary damages as someone who suffered a much lesser injury, despite the fact that she and her family will be burdened for a lifetime.

What the doctors have conveniently left out of their letter is that long-suppressed insurance reforms that are contained in this same legislation have resulted in a reduction of malpractice premiums and the return of doctors to the state.

Most importantly, this law has forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts that has in turn spurred competition, motivated more companies to enter the marketplace, and lowered premiums for doctors.

The Illinois Constitution was put in place to ensure individual rights and freedoms to all Illinoisans, rich and poor, black and white, young and old. While corporations and profit-hungry executives often stack the decks against individuals in the marketplace and the halls of government, the courtrooms of our state can still provide all parties with a level playing field.

The Illinois Supreme Court will now decide whether that constitutional standard remains in place for patients like Abigaile LeBron.

We can only hope that the state’s highest court will again decide in favor of patients and against the big insurance companies’ profits.

- Philip Harnett Corboy Jr.

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