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New law brings hopeful changes to medical malpractice procedure in Mass.

Under a new Massachusetts law, physicians that make medical errors are required to disclose their mistakes. The new law is a reworking of the state's approach to medical malpractice. The new law also requires a 182-day "cooling-off" period for both sides to attempt a settlement. During that time, both the plaintiff and the defendants are required to exchange information and allow health care providers to acknowledge making a mistake without it being an admission of liability.

The law also increases the maximum amount of compensation for patients who are legitimately injured by a non-profit hospital from $20,000 to $100,000. In addition, there is also a provision to create a task force to look at the overuse of medical testing and other "defensive medicine" practices used by doctors to avoid medical malpractice suits.

The changes were signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in order to reduce health care costs and to reduce unnecessarily suits. Both physicians and attorneys have hailed the law as an improvement to the system. Patient safety, in particular, is expected to improve under the changes, because of increased ability of physicians to communicate with patients. It is also hoped that the changes will help cases settle more quickly.

The new law will require genuine effort by both physicians and injured patients to see to it that pre-litigation discussion are meaningful and not simply a delay to inevitable legal action.

No doubt, not every case of medical malpractice can be harmoniously resolved. Some cases simply will not be resolved sufficiently without legal action. In those cases, it is greatly helpful to have an experienced advocate.

Source: Boston, " New Mass. Law changes malpractice procedures," Shannon Young, August 14, 2012

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