New York Doctors Urge Hochul To Veto Wrongful Death Bill

Medical professionals have joined a coalition of businesses and local elected officials in calling for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto a bill that would reform the state’s law for wrongful death litigation, which dates back more than 170 years.

Opposition to the bill has grown larger, with two prominent OBGYN’s saying they fear it could impact healthcare in the state.The doctors penned separate guest editorials in The Buffalo News and the Albany Times Union over the weekend, arguing liability insurance premiums could rise by as much as 45%. It would be a $60,000 annual increase for some New York OBGYN’s, if the governor signs Assembly Bill A6770/Senate Bill S74-A into law.

The bill would allow plaintiffs in wrongful death cases to sue for noneconomic losses. If signed into law, New York would join more than 40 states allowing people to seek financial compensation for emotional loss.

Proponents say the bill covers children, seniors, non-traditional families, and those whose households have little or no income. They say the current law only allows courts to measure an alleged victim’s worth by how much they made.However, Dr. Christine Herde, who chairs the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II, said in The Buffalo News, the bill could threaten reproductive freedom in the state.

“The Empire State has solidified itself as an access state for abortion care, and I am proud of that,” Herde wrote. “But if A.6770/S.74-A were enacted without comprehensive reform to reduce liability exposure and costs, our efforts to expand access to reproductive health care may be thwarted.”

In the Times Union, Dutchess County Medical Society President Dr. Adele El-Kareh said the bill was “well-intended,” but would incentivize litigation and larger settlements.

“An actuarial analysis finds that annual liability premiums for medical professionals are projected to increase by 40-45 percent,” El-Kareh wrote. “In some parts of New York, this means an additional cost of $60,000 a year for OBGYNs. That’s enough to deter anyone from entering the field or practicing obstetrics in this state.”

In July, more than 30 New York-based industry organizations wrote to Hochul urging her to veto the bill, citing the liability insurance hikes would lead to higher prices, and either reduced wages or pink slips for workers. The same month, the New York State Association of Counties, the state Conference of Mayors, and the Association of Towns also wrote to Hochul, saying municipalities would face greater financial risk if the bill became law.


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