Series of hearings set for Guam’s Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act

Senator Therese Terlaje (PNC file photo)

Senator Therese Terlaje, the chair of the legislative health committee, is organizing a series of informational hearings on Guam’s Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act.

The goal of the first hearing on Sept. 19, at 2 p.m., is to present senators and the public with a basic background of the malpractice law, and prior cases interpreting this law.

“I have invited the Attorney General of Guam to briefly discuss and distinguish the law governing claims against the government and government health professionals. I have invited Attorney Mitch Thompson, who represents several providers, including Seventh Day Adventist Clinic, to present an overview of Guam’s Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act and a few of the relevant past cases,” Terlaje wrote in a letter to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes.

To accommodate any differing interpretation regarding the law or the cases, the senator is also inviting input from those lawyers who affirmatively responded to the Guam Bar Association’s call out for lawyers interested in assisting the Guam Legislature with the examination of Guam’s Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act.

According to Terlaje, senators will be allowed to ask questions of the panel following the presentation or any testimony. Following the information from the lawyers, there will also be an opportunity at the first hearing for a limited number of patients or the general public to comment.

Health professionals will be invited to a second hearing on Oct. 3, at 5 p.m., to focus on the impacts of the current law on their practice; on whether the law ensures the appropriate standard of care on Guam; and the impacts of the law on the availability of qualified health professionals.

“I have invited the heads of the Guam Medical Association and the Guam Medical Society to lead the health professional’s panel. The second hearing will also allow limited testimony from patients and the general public,” Terlaje wrote.

Following the second hearing, the senator is extending an open invitation to the legal and health professionals, along with the public, to submit suggestions for reform or arguments against reform, which will be more fully considered at a third hearing on Nov. 7, at 2 p.m. Terlaje said her committee is particularly interested in input as to whether the law can be improved to better protect patients and to ensure an appropriate standard of care. The third hearing will also allow testimony from patients and the general public.

According to the senator, these hearings are for informational purposes only, to allow senators to hear suggestions and make inquiries towards the formulation of legislation.

As of today, Terlaje said no bill has been introduced during this legislative term to revise the current Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act and a separate public hearing is still required on any bill that might be introduced to specifically amend the law.

She added that the above-described schedule is subject to change, especially if a bill is introduced or if legislative session is scheduled during those times.