Doctors obtain immunity

The Florida Senate Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care approved a bill granting emergency room workers and doctors immunity from lawsuits Tuesday.

Though the senate was applauded on its decision to reject a controversial bill capping medical malpractice suits at $250,000, those cheers quickly turned to jeers in response to Tuesday’s decision.

Several people in opposition to the bill were present at the meeting in the Capitol to testify before members of the committee.

Thursday, approximately 5,000 people marched on the Capitol to protest the decision.

Jacqueline Imbertson, president of Floridians For Patient Protection, made a plea to the committee to examine the legislation before passing it.

“I think you were on the right road when you took reconsideration of the cap issue,” said Imbertson, whose husband now requires a kidney transplant as a result of medical malpractice.

“We urge you to look more closely at the overall economic impact and the emotional and life impact this would have on the people of the state.”

Also in attendance was Linda McDougal who made national news for undergoing a double mastectomy after being misdiagnosed with breast cancer.

“I oppose caps in any form,” she said during testimony.

“I think sovereign immunity is another attempt to cap something that arbitrarily limits the compensation of people who have already suffered greatly at the hands of doctors.”

McDougal said she has traveled to Washington to address congress on several issues concerning malpractice suits.

She said her biggest fear about the effect of a possible cap is the “quality of care for injured patients.”

Imbertson added that sovereign immunity allows “greater leeway for less accountability.”

The big winners in the legislation are insurance providers, who would be harder to sue in malpractice suits.

John Wilson, staff director for the Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care, said the bill subjects insurers to a list of criteria to determine if they acted honestly and fairly toward their clients.

The bill must pass through other senate committees before it becomes law.

Its opponents still believe they are on the short end of the stick.”They (politicians) need to walk in their shoes to understand what a malpractice victim goes through,” McDougal said.

“The victims have been left out. This has really become a war between lawyers and doctors.”

Rahkia Nance can be reached at