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Grieving Father to Gov. Walker: Take the Initiative

PHOTO: Erin Rice of Middleton was misdiagnosed in a trip to a Madison emergency room and died as a result of what was determined to be malpractice. But by Wisconsin law, her parents could not file a wrongful death claim. Her father wants Gov. Scott Walker to help change that law. Photo courtesy of the Rice family.
PHOTO: Erin Rice of Middleton was misdiagnosed in a trip to a Madison emergency room and died as a result of what was determined to be malpractice. But by Wisconsin law, her parents could not file a wrongful death claim. Her father wants Gov. Scott Walker to help change that law. Photo courtesy of the Rice family.
July 21, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin and Florida are the only two states that completely bar recovery of legal damages by adult children in medical malpractice wrongful death cases.

If you are 18 or over and your divorced or widowed parent dies as a result of medical malpractice, you cannot file a lawsuit – and the same is true for parents of unmarried children over 18.

Eric Rice's 20-year-old daughter Erin was misdiagnosed at a Madison hospital in 1999, and died shortly thereafter.

After years of expensive legal fighting, Rice says he and his wife finally learned the truth about the misdiagnosis, but were shocked to learn they couldn't bring a wrongful death suit.

"Friend, associate and even a stranger I might discuss this with – no one is aware!” he says. “What is this Republican – Democrat stuff?

“Come on, this is a human issue. It affects everyone. It's not a party – and what should be fair, should be fair for all."

Rice wants Gov. Scott Walker to use his position of leadership to change the law.

"I want him to take the initiative, working with the legislature to pass a bill and sign it,” Rice says. “There are so many people that are being affected by this, and they'll never find out what happened to their loved one, you know?

“And even if they do find out a little bit, they get no justice."

Hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable medical errors every year, according to the Journal of Patient Safety.

But, as Chris Stombaugh of the Wisconsin Association for Justice explains, "If a doctor hits my 19-year-old child with a car, they are held accountable. But if that same doctor botches my 19-year-old's surgery and my child dies, there are no consequences."

Rice and others want a new law to change that.

"I've met a lot of people that had this happen to, and it's devastating,” he says. “I mean, they're parents, they're children – it's just devastating, and it never goes away.

“And we sit here and we fight for this – and nothing gets done, and it's time we get it done. We've got to act and we've got to educate people."

Some Wisconsin lawmakers have justified their limits on medical lawsuits and some types of damages by saying they're strategies to keep health care costs down and keep doctors practicing in the state.




Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI