We face an epidemic of preventable deaths related to medical errors in our country.Johns Hopkins study showed medical errors are the third leading cause of death, only behind heart disease and cancer, costing over 250,000 Americans their lives each year. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated one in four patients experience harm in a hospital. In Texas, the effect of so-called tort "reform" has been devastating for patients who face high hurdles to justice if they are victims of medical malpractice. 

We must do more to protect patients in our state. The Texas Legislature is evaluating a number of important bills this session in this area.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of medical malpractice, we want to hear your story. Please take a moment to share it with us here. There is strength in numbers. By demonstrating the human cost of misguided civil immunity laws, we hope to change the hearts and minds of decision makers. Your story is important for improving safety for all of us.

We have a crisis in the State of Texas when it comes to patient access. We lead the nation in the number of uninsured -- with fully one in five adults having no health insurance at all. When evaluating the states with the best and worst healthcare, Texas ranked very low -- 43rd overall in healthcare quality and 48th for patient access. The problem is even bigger in our rural areas with over 30 counties having no primary care doctors at all. 

SB 207 and HB 1617 worsen our problem with patient access. They complicate the way in which medical costs are determined to be "reasonable" in court, forcing doctors and other medical providers to spend more time in courtrooms and less time in their examination rooms treating patients. Given new demands placed on their time by the legislation, some physicians may choose to stop treating patients altogether who are seeking justice through our courts for their injuries.

We need to improve patient access, not create unnecessary hurdles and headaches for doctors who are willing to render care.Take one minute to tell your lawmakers to OPPOSE SB 207 and HB 1617. 

In Texas, the lives of those impacted by medical malpractice are largely defined by their paycheck. Following a close vote, unconstitutional caps were placed on the amount of non-economic damages you may recover in these suits. This amount is currently set at just $250,000 for a life. Therefore, if your economic damages are not large -- for example, if you are a stay-at-home parent -- you may be effectively prevented from bringing suit no matter how serious the wrongdoing you have suffered. This is because these cases are expensive -- they require reports and testimony from medical experts whose time is valuable. With your loved one's life capped so harshly, it may be simply too expensive to bring a case. This creates injustice because wrongdoing is not exposed or held accountable through our courts. Safety suffers for all of us.

HB 501 will make some improvements in this area by ensuring the amount of this noneconomic damage cap is not worth less each year. We all know the value of a dollar decreases with the passage of time. HB 501 will add the Consumer Price Index to the noneconomic damage cap so the price of life is not diminished by the day. We strongly believe the noneconomic damage cap unconstitutionally impairs our legal rights and should be overturned. However, so long as it is law, it should at least keep up with average changes in prices. HB 501 should be supported for that reason.

Patients have a right to know about their care. Decisions about whether to undergo medical procedures are some of the most important decisions in a person's life because the stakes are so high. Who is the right medical professional to perform the procedure? Which is the right hospital in which to have it done? The answers to these questions are crucial.

Due to a legislative mistake two decades ago, many patients have been in the dark when it comes to learning about problems in Texas hospitals. Reports about these facilities were made confidential and have remained so for years. You can learn more about the safety of a restaurant than the safety of a hospital in Texas. That makes no sense. Sunlight is the best disinfectant because bad things happen in the dark. HB 2052 will shine a bright light on this issue, making reports about state-identified problems in hospitals public once again. Transparency is so important and HB 2052 gives patients more information so they can make the best decision possible for their care. It deserves strong support.