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New Mexico to Pay Over $100 Million in Medical Malpractice Claims

New reports state that New Mexico may have to pay as much as $120 million for a potential class action lawsuit. The suit has already paid out $45 million in settlements to 118 families since 1998, but an estimated 101 new medical malpractice claims have arisen. The University of New Mexico hospital disclosed that in 1998, “children appeared not to have been given the newest drug therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia from 1989 to October 1996.” The state has only allotted $19.6 million for pediatric oncology cases.

The state has been forced to reassess its liability exposure. Initially, the estimate was based on the states $1.05 million tort claim cap. The agency is not seeking additional funds in future budges to help pay for the losses. Because the University of New Mexico is a state institution and because the state is self-insured, taxpayers will be responsible for the payout.

The lawsuits begin against the hospital and cancer physician Marilyn Duncan, chief of pediatric oncology, arose after the hospital announced in 1998, “that about 110 children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia from 1989 and 1196 didn’t receive recommended care.” Duncan, who was forced to leave after the announcement, still contends that the treatments given to children were “medically appropriate and effective.” Duncan has since surrendered her license to practice medicine in New Mexico.

None of the claims against the hospital have gone to trial to date, but a potential class action lawsuit filed in 2001 is still pending. The suit has been brought on behalf of two parents who children died. The lawsuit contends that “the patients and their families share some common issues, such as not being adequately informed by UNM about the treatments they were receiving and about the risks of treatments proposed…and that patients and their families were dissuaded from seeking second opinions.”

Study: More cancer suits may cost NM millions, December 07, 2012

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