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Supporters of malpractice changes include Alton lawyer and senator

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (UPI file photo)
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (UPI file photo)

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is expected to sign medical malpractice legislation by the end of this month, and one of the sponsors of the bill about to become law is a lawyer from Alton.

The legislation caps non-economic damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals.

State Senator Bill Haine, an attorney from Alton, wasn't initially in favor of capping damages, but voted for the bill.

Haine says in a perfect world caps wouldn't be needed, but "it's the only way that we're going to keep our medical, our provision of medical services from collapse, is to limit big awards.

"That's the only way you're going to keep the system from collapse."

Haine calls it a balanced bill that both requires more disclosure from insurance companies about rate increases, and gives the state more disciplinary powers to weed out bad doctors.

But not everyone agrees it's a good law to have. "Victims and Families United" is a group of Madison County citizens that has been active in the debate over the issue.

Spokesman Doug Wojcieszak says caps won't bring down the high insurance premiums doctors pay.

"How often have you heard health care providers say we've got to get rid of these frivolous lawsuits. So what's their solution? To cap the damages on the people who have been hurt the most. That makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever."

Wojcieszak says he is satisfied with portions of the bill, including the "Sorry Works" program. That idea encourages hospitals to admit mistakes, apologize and offer compensation immediately to head off lawsuits.