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Binding arbitration agreements between doctors and patients, where patients waive their right to a jury trial, are becoming more and more prevalent since it typically costs less than litigation, takes up less time and is convenient for both parties. An increasing number of physicians, nursing homes and healthcare systems are requiring patients sign these agreements before offering them their services. Attorneys warn this could lead to patients having a strong disadvantage if medical malpractice disputes surface, since the agreements take away the patient’s constitutional rights while also guaranteeing that no responsibility befalls the doctors or medical providers. For instance, some agreements make patients pay the arbitrators and seek caps on damages that are smaller than what the state allows.  Attorneys point out arbitrators should not get paid since patients do not pay specifically for judges and members of the jury. Attorneys are also worried that patients will not know what rights they are signing away since they have to sign so many documents, although it is required that the information about giving up a jury trial be in bold, capital letters.


            Some states have started cracking down on the agreements. For example, a law was passed in Utah legalizing arbitration agreements, though it was recently modified to include the rule that doctors cannot deny service if someone refuses to sign the document. The District of Columbia is also trying to get a law passed through Congress that would enhance the regulation of arbitration organizations and require them to disclose the costs connected with the arbitration. The bill is aimed at both general and medical arbitration. Lawmakers do not want to get rid of arbitrators; instead they want to make sure both sides are knowledgeable about the arbitration process and have equal power in case a dispute arises since usually patients are at a disadvantage by not knowing much about arbitrators.

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