A measure that would raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, put forth by a Danville couple whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, has qualified for November’s ballot.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office said the measure needed at least 555,236 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling, and it exceeded that threshold Thursday. Bob and Carmen Pack had announced in March that they had submitted 840,000 signatures.
“The patient safety protections in this ballot measure will save lives and protect families from dangerous, impaired and drug dealing doctors,” Bob Pack said in an statement issued Thursday. “Today, California voters have taken the first step in making sure that more families like mine don’t have to experience the pain of losing a child due to dangerous medicine. No family should suffer because a doctor recklessly prescribes pills to an addict, is a substance abuser, or commits repeated acts of medical negligence.”
The measure would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery – now fixed at $250,000 – for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.
The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.
The measure is supported by trial attorneys, but is staunchly opposed by medical and business groups.
“We always knew this flawed measure was bad for the pocketbooks of everyday Californians, but the more they read the fine print, the more they realize it’s equally bad for their personal privacy,” Jim DeBoo, manager of the campaign against the measure, said in a statement issued Thursday. “If this measure passes, it will mandate a database that isn’t properly working and open the privacy floodgates to the sensitive personal medical data of millions of Californians with no increased security safeguards or funding. It’s a hacker’s dream – and a privacy nightmare.”