In a continuing trend of naming bills misleadingly, the Protecting Access
to Care Act (HR 1215) was passed in the Republican-majority Congress on
June 28, 2017. This bill places a cap on the maximum amount a patient
can sue for damages in a medical malpractice suit. HR 1215 is currently
being considered by the Senate, so it has not yet gone into effect.
However, this is a bill Republicans favor. If the Senate goes the same
way as Congress, those who are victims of severe negligence will only
be able to sue for up to $250,000 in noneconomic damages, despite any
additional care needed to deal with the repercussions.
Proponents of the bill argue it will save the health care industry thousands
of dollars, making health care affordable for more people, but this assertion
is dubious. Even if medical insurers do save millions of dollars, this
is no guarantee they will lower their premiums to allow better health
care for low-income individuals who can’t afford it. Likewise, this
bill targets the victims of malpractice who have suffered the most. Those
who require extensive amounts of health care, rehabilitation, and who
can no longer work after their injuries will need much more than $250,000
In one example, written about by F. Paul Bland Jr. in on
The Hill website, Kathleen Astleford is one such victim. In 2018, she was diagnosed
with cancer in the right tonsil. She was referred to a Dr. Turrisi, who
incorrectly noted she had been diagnosed with cancer on the left side
of her tonsil, rather than the right. He then recommended she undergo
35 radiation therapy treatments, after which she would be cancer free.
She began an aggressive series of radiation treatments thereafter; however,
the doctor treated her left side, rather than the right where the cancer
was located. At first, he told her everything was fine; later, he admitted
he had performed 26 unnecessary radiation treatments on the wrong side
of her tonsils. His solution was to carry out another 17 radiation treatments
on the correct side, bringing her total treatments to 43. This amount
of radiation would put her spinal cord and oral cavity at risk of severe harm.
Despite the risk, Turrisi never told his patient about the potential harm,
telling her instead that the additional treatments could be completed
“safely.” He also told her it would not be in her best interest
to pursue “other options at this time.”
Ultimately, Astleford underwent an incredibly invasive surgery that required
removing part of her tongue. She is now unable to swallow properly. Instead
of receiving the proper treatment, she received 26 unnecessary radiation
doses on the wrong side of her face and a painful and debilitating surgery
to fix Turrisi’s horrific mistake.
Astleford has filed a suit against Delta Medix and Dr. Turrisi, but if
HR 1215 passes, she would only be able to collect up to $250,000 for her
pain and suffering. The trauma of enduring incorrect treatments and debilitating
surgery is noneconomic, so according to the lawmakers behind the bill,
they are irrelevant and should not be reimbursed.
Damage caps might not do anything for the cost of health insurance premiums,
but they do and have allowed criminally negligent individuals to
get away with egregious behavior. Dr. Turrisi is one of many doctors who,
through arrogance or sheer ignorance, caused harm to the patient he was
supposed to heal. Read more about her case in F. Paul Bland Jr.’s article
If you have a loved one who has been affected by severe medical negligence,
call your senator as soon as possible. Make sure they understand the impact
this bill would have on you and your loved one.
If you’re interested in pursuing a case against a negligent medical
professional, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
Shrager, Spivey & Sachs is a law firm dedicated to helping the victims of negligence and carelessness
recover compensation for their medical bills and lost wages. We have more
than 80 years of collective legal experience to offer your case. Talk
to one of our skilled
Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys about your situation.
Contact us at (888) 899-0652 or fill out our online form to schedule your free case