Oregon Initiates Program to Encourage Mediation in Malpractice Cases
The Early Discussion and Resolution Program has officially launched in Oregon. The program, personally led by Governor John Kitzhaber, is the result of negotiations between trial lawyers in the state and the Oregon Medical Association, and is designed to give patients and their families the option of effective mediation instead of simply immediately launching a lawsuit.
Under the program, patients who have suffered injury or death while under medical care can file a notice concerning the incident. The notice automatically results in a private discussion between the family or patient and the health care provider, at which the provider can offer an apology and/or a financial settlement over the matter. A professional mediator is an option during this discussion but is not legally required. If no settlement is achieved, the family retains its right to sue.
The Oregon Patient Safety Commission is supervising the newly-launched program, which has an initial budget of $1.6 million of state funds. The OPSC intends to track the data and use it to identify patterns in medical errors in the hopes of improving overall patient care.
Many healthcare professionals have criticized the program, however, saying that while they are expected to be completely honest and forthcoming about possible mistakes or misjudgements in providing care, since the families retain the right to sue this, puts them at increased risk. They categorize the program as “free discovery” for potential lawsuits and suggest they would have very little motivation to be forthcoming and honest.