The state of Washington created a law in 2006 designed to reform
medical malpractice lawsuits. Part of the law required those wishing to file medical malpractice
suits to obtain certificates of merit before they could actually file
a lawsuit. In other words, patients who were victims of medical mistakes
had to find an expert (probably someone in the medical community) who
would provide a certificate of merit.
Well, that requirement was recently overturned by the state Supreme Court
and deemed unconstitutional because it created an obstruction to the public’s
right of access to the court. The main example cited involved a Wenatchee
woman whose ovarian cancer was undiagnosed for two years. She wished to
sue the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, the center that failed to diagnose
her cancer. Her lawsuit was dismissed because she failed to file the certificate of merit.
Patients, it was argued, faced a burden when trying to obtain certificates
of merit, since doctors and nurses knowledgeable about the cases would
be hesitant to criticize their colleagues or speak out at all. Therefore,
most patient would be unable to get these certificates.