A state law that hasn’t changed since 1975 caps compensation for families harmed by medical negligence. The limits apply to lost quality of life, even if a patient loses a leg, a child, or is disabled for life. Click on the picture of the map to find patients by the State Senate Districts they live in.
Misty Parker is a nurse and an educator. Misty led a very active, normal life. She lifted weights and took care of herself because she understands the role fitness plays in maintaining good health.
Misty did her research and put a lot of thought into her decision to have a breast augmentation. She had met with two other people who had the same surgery.
The doctor she chose to treat her was advertising breast augmentation, emphasizing that he specialized in this procedure. When she went for her consultation, the doctor pushed her to have surgery by a specific date. When she agreed to the surgery, he told her if anything did not go right with the surgery, she would have to go see someone else. What he did not tell her was the reason: two days following her surgery he was beginning a probation sentence for harming three other women during breast augmentations. He was about to be prohibited from performing the very procedure he was planning for Misty but, shockingly, he did not inform her. This lack of transparency nearly cost Misty her life.
Following her surgery, Misty became ill. She went back to see her doctor. He told her it was just a superficial surgical site infection and that antibiotics would take care of it. Her condition worsened. Within two days, she called another surgeon. The other surgeon had to obtain permission from her doctor to treat her. The new surgeon immediately sent her to the hospital for emergency surgery. Misty was septic and hours away from dying. The emergency surgery saved her life.
During the emergency surgery, it was discovered that her left breast was completely infected and her right breast contained blood clots. Her surgeon told her that it looked like someone had taken a meat cleaver to her chest. Her incision site was so torn up that the surgeon had to leave it open for six months before he could go in and perform another surgical procedure to repair the damage.
The second procedure left Misty unable to raise her arm. She had to undergo three months of physical therapy in order to regain motion in her arm.
Following her surgery, her husband and daughter had to shower her and dress her. She could no longer take care of herself. As an independent woman, it was incredibly trying to depend on her daughter for the most basic functions.
Her last surgery was in June of 2019. She will still need another procedure to repair an indentation where a muscle was detached.
Misty talked to a lawyer in Bakersfield. But in California, a cap placed on compensation for medical negligence victims makes it almost impossible for attorneys to pursue cases like Misty’s. That bar on justice for his prior victims allowed the doctor who had already harmed many other women to continue practicing. In Misty’s case, because her health insurance paid most of her medical bills, she could only have recovered the capped amount set in 1975 at $250,000. That amount has never been adjusted, and the costs of a case eat up most of it. So the lawyer discouraged her from pursuing legal action, stating that her doctor would fight the case tooth and nail and that all she would be left with was extreme emotional turmoil.
The surgeon that saved Misty’s life recommended that she file a complaint with state regulators at the Medical Board. She thought that even if she couldn’t get justice in court, the state would hold her doctor accountable. But her complaint was dismissed without even an investigation. The form letter she received notifying her of the decision stated that there was not enough evidence – yet she had never even been interviewed.
Today, Misty suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She is back working as a nurse and is teaching nursing classes. She feels that nurses are advocates for their patients. She does not want her experience with a bad doctor to ruin everything she worked so hard to become. She is sharing her story in the hope that it will save another woman from harm or death.
Californians will have the chance to vote on the Fairness for Injured Patients Act on the November 2022 ballot. The Fairness Act would update California’s medical malpractice damage cap for nearly 50 years of inflation, and allow judges and juries to decide fair compensation in cases involving catastrophic injury or death. Learn more about this campaign for patient safety.
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