Donda West May Have Died of Complications from Cosmetic Surgery

11/17/2008 | Medical Malpractice

According to reports, Kanye West's mother, Dr. Donda West, may have died as the result of complications from cosmetic surgery.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Jan Adams.  
Before anyone rushes to the conclusion that the West Estate is entitled to a super large medical malpractice award, let me point out that California has caps on non-economic damages.
Since the mid-70s, California has limited a medical negligence victim's recovery for non-economic damages to $250,000.  These are damages for things such as pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary injury.  The cap applies whether the case is for injury or death, and it allows only one $250,000 recovery in a wrongful death case.  
According to the Rand Study, "Researchers found that cases involving patients who died were much more likely to have awards reduced than non-fatal injury cases, and the median change in total award size when the verdict was capped were larger among cases involving death than for injury cases (49 percent versus 28 percent)."
Many consumer advocate groups and California Consumer Attorneyspoint out that caps don't work and, instead, they hurt the most severely injured victims.
The Center for Justice & Democracy points out that the purposes of caps (lowering doctor's insurance premiums and discouraging frivolous lawsuits) has not been seen in California's system:"Thirteen years after the state’s severe $250,000 cap on damages was enacted (MICRA, passed in 1975), “doctors’ premiums had increased by 450 percent and reached an all-time high in California.” But in 1988 California voters passed a stringent insurance regulatory law, Proposition 103, which “reduced California doctors’ premiums by 20 per within three years,” and stabilized rates. In the thirteen years after MICRA, but before the insurance reforms of Prop. 103, California medical malpractice premiums rose faster than the national average.  In the twelve years after Prop. 103 (1988-2000), malpractice premiums dropped 8 percent in California, while nationally they were up 25 percent. Moreover, the law has led to public hearings on recent rate requests by medical malpractice insurers in California, which resulted in rate hikes being lowered three times.  The “liability insurance crisis” of the mid-1980s was ultimately found to be caused not by legal system excesses but by the economic cycle of the insurance industry.  Just as the liability insurance crisis was found to be driven by this cycle and not a tort law cost explosion as many insurance companies and others had claimed, the “tort reform” remedy pushed by these advocates failed.  It has failed again.   Only effective insurance reforms will stop these cyclical insurance crises."

As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, severely injured victims of malpractice are unable to find lawyers because of caps. "As Malpractice Caps Spread, Lawyers  Turn Away Some Cases." 

While I doubt that Kanye will have any trouble finding a lawyer, others in California and other states that have unfair caps on damages may not be so lucky.

Addendum:  Be sure to watch WHAS 11 News at 11:00 p.m., Tuesday November 27th for my interview on the subject of medical malpractice and plastic surgery.

Hans Poppe