PEEK

Media Perpetuates "Medical Malpractice" Hoax on Public

How can the public still support laws capping damages at levels that undermine the injured patients' access to the justice system?
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Dennis and Kimberly Quaid say Cedars-Sinai Medical Center didn't notify them when their babies received doses of high-concentration heparin. (AP photo / January 14, 2008)


For the past six weeks we have heard bits and pieces of the story about Dennis Quaid's twin babies who received an overdose of medication in the hospital. All of the major networks, magazines and newspapers have published various accounts of the event and its fallout. What is clear from the stories is that the babies got some sort of infection while in the hospital (just like hundreds of thousands of other hospital patients do every year). In order to treat the infection the babies were put on intravenous antibiotics, which required the administration of heparin (a blood-thinning agent) so that clots would not form at the site of the IV. The ultimate nightmare occurred when the wrong vial of heparin was used, and the babies got 100 times the safe dose. Their lives were seriously in danger for many days, and it is still not known if irreparable harm occurred. How can the public hear such a story and still support laws capping damages at levels that undermine the injured patients' access to the justice system?

The Quaids, and others like them who are hurt by the healthcare system, are not maligned for hiring a lawyer, because the public seems to understand that a wrong was committed. Yet, in the same news cycle, we also hear about the Democratic Presidential race, where John Edwards, a trial lawyer, is in contention for the nomination. Whenever he does get some favorable news recognition above the roar of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, he or his campaign is confronted with some negative question about his background as a trial lawyer.

The media has swallowed, and is still reeling with heartburn over, the acid propaganda promulgated by the insurance industry about trial lawyers. Chris Matthews, who always wants to appear to "know the truth," blasted Elizabeth Edwards, claiming that John Edwards profession was "running doctors out of Pennsylvania." He takes this position, despite the fact that the insurance party line was dispelled in Chris Matthews' own hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, way back in 2004, at the height of what the insurance companies fraudulently labeled as the "malpractice crisis."

The media has never reported the results of the exhaustive study done by Public Citizen, where the figures from the National Practitioner Databank (federally mandated data on medical malpractice settlements and verdicts) demonstrate that the Malpractice Crisis was a manufactured hoax. See here, where one can read the true statistics--the actual value of payments has been declining; payments correspond to the severity of injury; and that less than one-half of one percent of malpractice awards is for an amount over one million dollars. So, "litigious" patients are not filing lawsuits and getting rich at the expense of the system.
Michael Townes Watson, author of America’s Tunnel Vision—How Insurance Companies’ Propaganda Is Corrupting Medicine and Law.
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