Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Early Discussion and Resolution Bill

Senate Bill 483, the Early Discussion and Resolution proposal to improve the state’s medical liability system, had its first hearing on Feb. 14 before the Oregon Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

Governor John Kitzhaber kicked off the hearing with his testimony in support of the legislation, describing SB 483 as “innovative and focused both on improving patient safety but also improving the practice environment and culture of medicine.” He believes this Early Discussion and Resolution legislation, which “allows health care providers to meet with patients in a confidential setting to attempt to resolve serious medical events before they go to court,” would provide harmed patients and their families with “access to justice,” while allowing health care providers “to be able to practice medicine in an environment where you can make good clinical decisions without worrying all the time about the threat of lawsuits.”

OMA President Bud Pierce, MD, PhD, testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of the bill, stating that “the current dysfunctional [malpractice] system is harmful to doctors and patients. What we’re proposing at this point in time is revolutionary. Early discussion and resolution has been tried in closed systems with very good success.”

He went on to say that “we need to start doing things differently. The status quo is not acceptable. I think this legislation is a critical first step in achieving a safer health care system for all of us.”

As reported previously, the OMA Board of Trustees voted to support this proposal after long and passionate debate at its Jan. 26 meeting.

Representatives of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the Oregon Patient Safety Commission also testified in favor of SB 483.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved amendments to the bill and moved the legislation forward with a ‘do pass’ recommendation.

The committee approved two amendments that change the membership of the Task Force on Resolution of Adverse Health Care Incidents, which the bill establishes, from 12 to 14 people, adding one member from the hospital industry and one patient safety advocate; delete the requirement that reports evaluate whether the resolution process was successful; change the definitions of nurse and nurse practitioner to registered nurse; add ‘location operated by a health care facility’ to health care facilities that may file a notice of adverse incident; adds a new section 4 that states whether or not a party participated remains inadmissible in court; and prohibit inmates from filing under the bill.

Governor Kitzhaber, Senator Floyd Prozanski, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other supporters of the bill made it clear that the legislation and voluntary Early Disclosure and Resolution process can be tweaked and improved going forward if further work is warranted. The Governor commented that “this is a real foundation [that] allows us to look at this legislation over the next two or three years and if indeed there are other things that need to be done, we’ve created the trust and communication that we can have that conversation in a completely different environment than we’ve had it before.” Senator Prozanski noted that “this is what I consider a first step, a major step. There will be time for us to see how this starts rolling out and how we can improve it going forward.”

The bill now moves to the Ways and Means Committee for review before heading to the Senate floor for a vote.

Visit for the full text of the bill, related news and a statement from OMA President Bud Pierce, MD, PhD, regarding the proposal and the OMA Board of Trustees’ decision to support it.


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