Recent Study Shows That Medical Malpractice Non-economic Damage Caps Do Not Affect the Number of Cesarean Section Deliveries

Illinois is not one of the many states that have enacted non-economic damage caps on medical malpractice lawsuits. However, Illinois lawmakers have three times voted to enact such laws; each was found unconstitutional for a variety of reasons.

According to a paper completed by Rutgers Law School Professor Sabrina Safrin, caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases have no effect on a procedure that’s among the most commonly undertaken in operating rooms across the United States: cesarean sections. “C-sections are arguably the poster child for so-called-defensive medicine,” the professor wrote in her paper.

C-sections involve cutting through a mother’s abdomen and uterine wall to remove the fetus. In many cesarean delivery cases, the fetus may have been observed to be in distress. By delivering an emergency C-section child, the purpose is preventing brain damage, cerebral palsy and other life-altering birth injuries.

Surveys of doctors have suggested that they would perform fewer C-sections if their exposure were limited, for instance, by capping how much they could be sued for.

According to Professor Safrin’s paper, there was no significant difference between the number of C-sections performed in states with caps and states without caps.

The study used data compiled from the Centers for Disease Control for the years 2007 and 2013.

The analysis of the data found that women have the procedure, C-section, at about 32% in states that had caps in 2007 and a slightly lower rate, 31.3%, in states without caps. In 2013, the rates were 33% in cap states and 32.1% in states without caps. Professor Safrin had a statistician examine the weight of change in the two groups of states during the timeframe. The analysis found no significant difference.

“Do damage caps reduce the number of lawsuits and the size of those awards? They do. But is that helping pregnant women avoid a C-section? Our study says absolutely not,” Professor Safrin said in an interview with the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

It is interesting that the lowest observed rate of C-sections during the study occurred in Utah which has caps in 2007 when 22.2% of births occurred by way of C-section. But the highest rate of C-sections occurred in a state with caps, Louisiana. In 2013, about 38.9% of births there occurred by way of C-section.

Illinois was among the few states that changed its law in the middle of the study period. Its $500,000 cap on non-economic claims against physicians and $1 million cap against hospitals were struck down in the 2010 Illinois Supreme Court decision Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

Illinois’ C-section rate was about 30.3% in 2007 when it did have a cap. The rate was about 31.7% six years later in 2013 when it didn’t have a cap.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has argued that there are just too many C-sections being done.

In summary, Professor Safrin’s study found that whether there were non-economic caps in the state made little or no difference to doctors performing C-sections on pregnant women.

The C-Section Epidemic: What’s Tort Reform Got To Do With It? by Sabrina Safrin, Law Professor, Rutgers Law School.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling birth trauma injury lawsuits, cerebral palsy injury cases, medical malpractice cases, and traumatic brain injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Antioch, Bellwood, Calumet City, Deerfield, Elmhurst, Franklin Park, Gurnee, Highwood, Inverness, Joliet, Kenilworth, Long Grove, Chicago (Pullman, Pilsen, Ashburn, Galewood, East Side, Hegewisch), Lincolnshire, Mundelein, Oak Park and Palos Hills, Ill.

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