Conflicts of Interest Surrounding the MMLP
May 21, 2018
“Montana Medical Legal Panel(MMLP) director Jean Branscum also holds a top position within the medical community. Might this conflict with how the MMLP handles legal claims?”
Around 12 states currently have some sort of screening panel to process medical malpractice claims before they go to court. In Montana, this administrative body is called the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP).
The goal of these screening panels is not to discover the truth or deliver justice. Rather, their aim is to discourage claimants from filing suits against medical practitioners. This is not speculation; here is the stated purpose of the Montana Medical legal Panel(MMLP) :
“to prevent where possible the filing in court of actions against health care providers and their employees for professional liability in situations where the facts do not permit at least a reasonable inference of malpractice and to make possible the fair and equitable disposition of such claims against health care providers as are or reasonably may be well-founded.”
If a claimant wishes to file a malpractice suit, they’re first required to present their claim to the MMLP. This 6-person panel is composed of three lawyers and three medical professionals. The group tends to portray itself as an unbiased, legally-binding administration. This is simply untrue.
Firstly, the ruling of the MMLP holds no weight as evidence in a court of law. The panel could decide 6-0 in favor of the physician (which is normally the case). This decision cannot bar a claimant from filing a lawsuit, and furthermore cannot be used as evidence if the case were to go to court.
Secondly, the panel is explicitly protective of the medical community. As they state, their goal is to prevent the filing of actions against health care providers. Unfortunately, the prejudice of the MMLP means that the claims of patients—who sometimes suffer life-long injuries because of a provider’s negligence—are marginalized.
The partiality of the Montana Medical Legal Panel(MMLP) is evident considering body’s leadership. MMLP director Jean Branscum oversees all panel operations and processes. However, Ms. Branscum is also the Executive Vice President of the Montana Medical Association, the state’s largest healthcare organization that represents medical professionals.
The Montana Medical Association endeavors to understand and promote the interests of physicians in all medical specialties in Montana. So Ms. Branscum holds a top position representing medical professionals, as well as directs the quasi-impartial MMLP. Couldn’t her interests at the Montana Medical Association interfere with her running of the MMLP?
Really this is the essence of the MMLP. They portray themselves as an unbiased, legally-mandated administrative body. In reality, the panel is nothing more than a farce aimed to protect physicians at the expense of affected patients. Their mission is not justice, but defense. No other profession has such a wall of protection intended to limit liability for negligent acts committed in-practice. It is the only known example of the legislature acting to insulate a particular class of individuals from being sued.
As a claimant, it’s important to understand that the MMLP is not an unbiased group. If you require proof, look no further than the panel’s leadership. Jean Branscum mandating the MMLP as well as the Montana Medical Association is a blatant conflict of interest. Although the panel consists of three lawyers and three medical professionals, the leadership behind the curtains is interested only in serving and protecting the medical community. Be sure to contact an experienced attorney when dealing with the MMLP.