Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tort Reform with a Texas Twist

Trial lawyers have been the whipping boys of Republican politics since the Reagan era. The popular game of blaming medical malpractice suits for the ever- increasing cost of medical care has been the favorite pastime of folks who like their ideas simple, straightforward and tinged with demagoguery. The terrible irony of all this is that the same people who foist the myth of malpractice claims as the scourge of all scourges on the public are also the first to raise gun ownership as a God given right under the Constitution. Like I said, these people like their solutions simple and straightforward, apparently so much so that they cannot be bothered with the nuance of actually reading the Constitution further than the first two or three Amendments to the Bill of Rights. The Gun Amendment is the second Amendment. It is easy, simple and straightforward and, most importantly, not buried in a complicated list and appearing early in the list of enumerated rights provided by the wisdom of our founding fathers. Not like the Seventh Amendment. The Seventh amendment guarantees the right of a citizen harmed by another to civil trial by jury. That Amendment, on the same page but further down on the list than the Second Amendment, is ignored by this group known as Republicans, Tea Baggers, whatever, because it is easy to blame something or somebody that you either can’t understand or shoot. It’s okay for these people to fervently defend the right of gun ownership although in so doing, it costs thirty thousand fellow Americans their lives each year. Medical malpractice, according to serious studies performed by doctors, kills more than one hundred thousand patients each year. To this group I say let’s make a deal. Let’s agree to honor the entire Constitution, including the Seventh Amendment, rather than pick and choose. Finally, let me tell you about tort reform Texas-style. In a small town in western Texas, two courageous nurses reported the questionable antics of a local doctor [who had previously been reprimanded several times and whose license had been restricted for his activities related to a weight loss clinic] to the Texas Medical Society. Because of their actions, these nurses are now being charged with a ten year felony for alleged misuse of confidential information. The sheriff who brought the charges against these women is a patient of the doctor and claims that the doctor saved his life after suffering a heart attack. This episode is the poster child of the tort reformers. Toss the baby out with the bath water. Folks, we can do better than this, a whole lot better.

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