Legislation at the Capitol would expand who can file medical malpractice lawsuits when a family member dies.
Under current state law, non-dependent children or their parents are not allowed to file malpractice claims if one of them dies due to a medical error. State Representative Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) says Wisconsin is one of only six states that does not extend the right to seek claims for loss of society and companionship to adult children or their parents.
Richards says the bill is needed to help families, such as the parents of Erin Rice. Rice died in 1999 from heart failure, after doctors in Madison repeatedly misdiagnosed her condition and prescribed medication that actually made the situation worse.
Her father, Dr. Eric Rice, told a legislative committee Tuesday that state laws did not allow them to file a traditional malpractice claim and getting an attorney to take their case was difficult. Eventually, they were able to sue on behalf of Erin's estate, and he says they finally were given answers about what led to their daughter's death. Rice says the explanation is what they really wanted all along.
The bill is facing opposition from the Wisconsin Medical Society, which argues it could create a worse climate for attracting doctors to the state and could also weaken state's Patient Compensation Fund.
If families want answers, the Medical Society says the state should pass legislation that adds additional protections for doctors if they disclose such information to families.
The bill is being considered by the Assembly Judiciary and Ethics Committee.