Kentucky court rules medical review panels unconstitutional

On Nov. 15, 2018, the Supreme Court of Kentucky struck down the Medical Review Panel Act.

The Act, which was pushed into place through partisan support in the legislature at the urging of groups like the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities and the Kentucky Medical Association, required plaintiffs who wished to pursue a medical malpractice suit against a doctor, hospital, nursing home or other health care provider to submit the case to a panel for review.

Each panel consisted of three medical professionals who would — eventually — vote on whether they believed the medical provider in a case violated the applicable standard of care. While plaintiffs could proceed to court without the panel’s approval, the panel’s decision could be used as evidence in the case.

The review panel system was supposed to provide a measure of safety for medical professionals against meritless cases, which lawmakers claimed were on the rise. In theory, the panel system was supposed to benefit everyone by lowering health care costs and providing a reason for more physicians and skilled nursing facilities to relocate to the state. In reality, the measure created a backlog of stalled cases.

One of those cases, involving a young boy with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, was at the heart of the high court’s ruling. The Claycomb family filed a lawsuit challenging the use of a medical review panel, arguing that the law created unreasonable delays that limited access to the court unfairly.

It seems that the highest justices in the state agree. Their unanimous ruling once again restores the ability of everyone to seek justice for their injuries — regardless of who inflicted those injuries.

Doubtless, not everyone is happy with the ruling. It’s likely that legislators will seek to find another way to institute another version of “reform” in the future. For now, however, patients who have suffered injuries due to the negligence of their medical providers have an unfettered right to seek their day in court.

If you have suffered serious injuries at the hands of a medical provider, find out more about your right to compensation from an attorney without delay.


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