Marijuana, Malpractice on the Ballot

A couple of ballot initiatives up for a vote Tuesday could have significant impacts on how doctors provide healthcare in 2 states.

A couple of ballot initiatives up for a vote Tuesday could have significant impacts on how doctors provide healthcare in 2 states.

In California, voters will decide whether to raise the cap on pain-and-suffering awards in medical malpractice cases. In Florida, voters will choose whether to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The California question, Proposition 46, actually has 3 parts. If enacted, the cap on medical malpractice pain-and-suffering awards would jump from $250,000 to $1.1 million, a change proponents say reflects the level of inflation since the cap was enacted 39 years ago. The question also would institute random drug-testing of physicians and require physicians to use a prescription database that proponents say would cut down on medical errors and prescription drug abuse.

The proposition is being billed as a “patient safety” bill, but its main, most contentious facet is the malpractice limit. The proposition has support from unions, Democratic lawmakers, attorney groups, and some patient-advocacy groups.

Opponents argue the change would drive up healthcare costs and taxes. They also argue many doctors would leave the state to avoid paying higher malpractice premiums.

Opponents include the American Medical Association and other medical groups, as well as local governments, lawmakers and political groups, and a number of labor unions.

On the other side of the country, Florida’s Amendment 2 would make the Sunshine State the 24th American state to allow use of marijuana drug for medical reasons.

As in other states, proponents say marijuana could provide relief to patients with HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, and other diseases. Supporters of the measure include the American College of Physicians, and other medical and patient advocacy gropus.

Meanwhile, opponents say the law is worded too broadly and is little more than a stealth attempt to pave the way for full legalization of marijuana in the state.

Both the California and Florida questions appeared unlikely to pass heading into election day. According to the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 46 has just 37% support among likely voters.

In Florida, a Tampa Bay Times poll found Amendment 2 has 46% support in Florida. However, because it is a constitutional amendment, it would need 60% approval to pass.