Guam needs protection from medical negligence

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David Lubofsky made local headlines when he began a campaign to reform Guam's medical laws.

By David Lubofsky

I have been fighting to change this law for two years. As you know, the Guam Mandatory Malpractice Arbitration Act (MMAA) has plagued the health care consumers on Guam for decades. Unlike any such law in the states, the MMAA protects doctors and other medical professionals who are negligent in the medical care that they provide leading to injury or death of our loved ones on Guam.

I want to thank Senator Therese Terlaje and Senator Telo Taitague who for a long time have been working on this new BILL 430-35 and for introducing it. Other senators have refused to answer emails from me regarding this issue and did not want to meet with me to discuss it. It’s been two years of prayers and pushing to change this law to protect Guam’s families with the ultimate goal of improving health care.

Senator Joe San Augustin has also committed to work on another bill to amend the MMAA, so hoping for his support on this bill.

There will be many hurdles to getting this bill into law, but I know most of the people on Guam welcome protection from medical negligence. The successful passing of this bill will not only protect our loved ones but will make sure those who injure or kill us are identified before they can do the same thing to another loved one.

As things stand now, doctors have no accountability and are back to work putting the next patient in harm’s way with no reporting of incidents or deaths. This is of major concern as research shows that malpractice is a repeat offense usually with just one percent of doctors linked to 32 percent of malpractice settlements paid out between 2005 to 2014. This is why it’s so important to identify those who hurt or kill us before they go on to the next loved one.

The medical community will have many talking points as to why this law will have a negative impact on Guam’s health care system, but in reality, there are strict protections in the bill that also protects doctors from frivolous lawsuits.

They will say we will not be able to get doctors. Well, the doctors we get now, many have malpractice histories as licensed by the GBME and those doctors are at a higher risk of a repeat perfomance. Specialist doctors have come to Guam for the island as a paradise, not to save on malpractice insurance unless they have a history of negligence.

The physicians will say doctors will leave. Well, at the MMAA legislative information hearings last year, not one doctor said they will leave when asked. In fact, Guam doctors are paid well on average compared to their counterparts in the mainland, and leaving means that they will have to pay high malpractice rates in the states.

Guam doctors are big fish in a small pond and many of them know and relish this. We may lose doctors who have a history of negligence who cannot get malpractice insurance if required or who have negligently hurt someone on Guam. Do we want them to stay and hurt other people, which has already happened? Should not doctors who kill or injure us be identified so we know where to or not to bring our children and loved ones for medical care?

This bill is not a full repeal in purpose, it is a compromise that will protect us while improving medical care. It also protects doctors from frivolous lawsuits and protects their reputations. This bill is not about Asher, my son, it is about the next loved one that I do not want to see hurt or killed thru the apathy that is a product of medical professionals not being held accountable.

Thank you, Senators. Today, you walk on water by protecting and putting the people of Guam as a priority. This is a clear path to improve medical care on Guam.

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