Bob PackWe just wanted to let you know that we have filed a ballot measure that has been 37 years in the making. If we collect about 750,000 valid signatures, voters will have a chance to adjust for inflation a three and a half decade-old cap on the value of a child’s life if he or she is killed by medical negligence — a $250,000 limit that has never been changed.

Bob Pack, who lost his seven year-old daughter and ten year-old son on a roadside nine years ago, is the author of the ballot measure to address the drug overdose and physician accountability issues at the heart of his family’s tragedy, which you can read about below.

California voters have helped us qualify one initiative for next year’s ballot already — the Health Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act. Now we wanted to let you know that there will soon be opportunities for you to work with us on a new health care reform measure that deals with patient safety issues. 2014 is shaping up to be “The Year of the Patient.” If you want to help out, please email us at yearofthepatient@consumerwatchdog.org and let us know what you are willing to do.

The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act includes the following changes to California law:

  • Mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for physicians and mandatory physician drug and alcohol testing after reports of adverse events;
  • Mandatory use by physicians of the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California, which Pack developed for the state of California in the wake of his family’s tragedy;
  • Adjusting for inflation the 37-year-old $250,000 cap on recovery for medical negligence victims, which has not changed since 1975, and as the author of the original law, Barry Keene, recently came forward to support;
  • Requiring doctors who witness substance abuse by physicians or medical negligence to report it, and protecting those physicians from lawsuits by other doctors when they do.

Why is Bob Pack, our recent Rage for Justice Award-winner, taking on this cause?

Alana and Troy Pack were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with Bob’s wife, Carmen, when a drugged driver fell unconscious at the wheel and swerved off the road, killing the two children and injuring Carmen. The Packs also lost their unborn twins.

The driver, Jimena Barreto, turned out to be a doctor-shopping drug addict who was convicted of second-degree murder and imprisoned for 30 years to life. The Kaiser doctors who prescribed her thousands of pills, however, were never held accountable for their negligence.

Barreto had no physical symptoms, but managed to stockpile narcotics without any oversight.

In the wake of his family’s tragedy, Pack found that Kaiser’s doctors had no idea they were all over-prescribing to the same doctor shopper. There was no computer system tracking prescriptions patients received. Pack drew on his technology background to develop the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California. Unfortunately, too few doctors currently use the system. Kaiser does not use the CURES database either.

The Packs were only entitled to the cap of $250,000 for each of their children’s lives, because that is the maximum value of a child’s life under the 37-year-old cap on noneconomic damages signed into law during Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor. The cap is worth merely $58,000 today in 1975 dollars. Adjusting the cap for inflation would increase it to $1.1 million in 2013.

You can read the ballot measure here. You can read Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton’s column on the ballot measure here.

We’re off to the ballot again.

Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.