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Bill removes malpractice immunity for U doctors

September 28, 2000

All MSU physicians may lose legal immunity under a bill that was passed out of the Senate House Policy Committee on Tuesday.

State Rep. Lingg Brewer, D-Holt, held a press conference outside of the Union on Tuesday morning to urge the bill’s importance.

The problems addressed by the bill include loopholes where doctors affiliated with MSU and similar institutions were not liable for malpractice lawsuits.

“Many lives have been ruined, and will continue to be ruined if this doesn’t change,” said Brewer, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill states government-owned hospitals and employees affiliated with them would be immune from malpractice lawsuits.

Because Olin Health Center is not an overnight institution where patients stay, it is not considered a hospital. This is the main reason for the doctors’ immunity, Brewer said.

“There have been scores of people (injured by these doctors), and they have no recourse under the law unless the current bill passes unamended,” Brewer said. “The public must be protected from this butchery.”

Steve Webster, vice president of governmental affairs for MSU, said the new bill was an appropriate approach for solving the problem and that MSU supported the measure.

Brewer said state Sen. John Schwarz, R-Battle Creek, had not allowed similar bills to pass out of committee in the past. Unless a bill is moved out of committee, the Legislature cannot vote on it.

Schwarz, who operates a private practice in his district, is the only physician in the state Legislature and is often regarded as the expert on the bill subject. He did not approve of the previous bills because they would allow anyone who was ever harmed by one of these doctors in the past to sue.

“I can’t pass a law that’s retroactive,” Schwarz said. “I wanted the bill changed correctly.”

The bill makes the liability of MSU physicians equal to those of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University hospitals, Schwarz said.


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