September 2011

Rick Perry's "loser-pays" bill serves as little more than a cheap talking point

Rick Perry likes to talk a big game about the tort reform he’s passed in Texas, but his rhetoric is rarely ever backed by reality. The “loser-pays” legislation that he is so fond of touting not only has nothing to do with job creation, but the bill itself serves as little more than a cheap talking point that he can use on the campaign trail. As Reuters reports:

New Survey of Physicians Paints Contradictory Picture

This week’s Archives of Internal Medicine has a survey of primary care physicians on what factors influence their own practicing habits and whether patients are getting too much or too little care.

One of the major headlines has been that 76% of primary care physicians claim malpractice concerns lead them to practice more aggressively. However, the actual survey has multiple contradictions that paint a much different picture than has been reported.

MSNBC and Politifact Rate Rick Perry's Tort Reform Statement False

At last night’s GOP debate, Rick Perry again touted tort reform as a Texas job creator. MSNBC and looked at the facts this morning and rated his statement false.  

NIOSH needs to protect American workers against carcinogens

AAJ filed comments today with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) addressing its outdated Carcinogen and Recommended Exposure Limit Policy. Since its creation, AAJ has been an advocate for public health and safety and commends NIOSH for updating its policies to better protect American workers.

Amongst issues AAJ raises in its comments is NIOSH’s current cancer policy is based on a 1980 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classification policy. NIOSH’s policy is outdated and inconsistent with other U.S. government agencies, and neither OSHA or any other agency uses these classifications.  OSHA itself has stated:
“… [it] is aware of no instance where a toxic substance has more clearly demonstrated detrimental health effects on humans than has asbestos exposure.”
AAJ believes that NIOSH should take a lead role in notifying workers, health care providers, and other health and safety professionals of the hazards workplace toxins pose.  Any policy – relating to carcinogens or other toxins – which restricts NIOSH’s ability to do so should be changed.   

Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy: intersection of politics, corporate money & academia

For years, the corporate funders of efforts to restrict American consumers’ access to the courts have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on massive lobbying campaigns, advertisements and projects to bankroll anti-consumer political candidates. Today the Huffington Post exposed one of the newest efforts to sway lawmakers and avoid the congressional gift ban through thinly-veiled “educational” programs:

Sep 16, 2011 11:41 AM

Chinese Drywall causes ministry demise

According to Christian Century, Operation Helping Hands, a Catholic ministry that employed thousands of volunteers to rebuild nearly 200 homes after Hurricane Katrina, will close their doors in the coming year because of toxic Chinese drywall.  The organization used the defective product in their humanitarian efforts.

The drywall, largely manufactured in China, is known to emit sulphuric gasses that cause respiratory problems and corrodes wiring, ruining electronics and other home appliances.  The long-term health effects are not yet know, but the presence of the drywall does make homes almost worthless.

According to Christian Century magazine,

 "Simply, we didn't have the funding to stretch it any further," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, director of   Helping Hands. "And the biggest issue was, we got hit with Chinese drywall."

Fitzpatrick said officials with the Archdiocese of New Orleans have decided to spend their remaining money, about $2 million, gutting and rebuilding 41 homes tainted with toxic drywall.

Cosmetic surgery investigation highlights extreme dangers for patients

Yesterday the cover story in USA Today featured part one of their investigation into cosmetic surgery exploring how poor physician training and relaxed state laws have been disastrous for patient safety. Unfortunately, many of these surgeries are advertize as a safe and cheaper alternative to traditional procedures, but are leaving patients dead or severely disfigured. 
After undergoing a procedure in the same physician’s office Kellee Lee-Howard and Maria Shortall both died of lidocaine overdoses.
“James Howard woke up on Valentine's Day 2010 to find his wife lying dead on the living room couch. Along with her husband, Lee-Howard, 32, left behind six children — ages 3 to 14 — and a trail of questions about the doctor here who isn't board certified in any medical specialty but performed a type of liposuction he trademarked and has been teaching other non-plastic-surgeons across the country.”
The problem is only worsened by the fact that little information is available to the public when these horrific errors occur.
“…doctors are not required to report complications to medical authorities. In addition, states don't break down deaths by type of doctor involved, and physicians aren't required to report that they are doing surgeries outside their specialties.”
For many of these patients the civil justice system is the only way to hold these clinics and physicians accountable.  
Part two of this series can be found here.
Jayne O’Donnell the reporter of this series shares more:

Health Industry CEO's Push to Protect Profits by Limiting Patients' Rights

The Health Care Leadership Council today approved their plan for addressing health care costs in the deficit talks. The plan centers around shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries and patients themselves. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the executives from big insurance, pharma, and hospital corporations are submitting thier proposal to the “supercommittee” to make Medicare beneficiaries shoulder massive cuts and limit the rights of all Americans to hold negligent health care providers accountable:

Seeking to fend off larger cuts in federal medical spending, executives from big pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance companies are crafting their own plan to reduce the deficit which calls for wringing Medicare savings from beneficiaries, not just from hospitals and drug makers. Members of the Healthcare Leadership Council—which includes top executives from Pfizer Inc., Aetna Inc. and the Mayo Clinic—on Wednesday are expected to approve a proposal that would call for raising Medicare's eligibility age and shifting the program toward private plans for beneficiaries. 

… The plan includes a series of curbs on medical liability lawsuits, including capping noneconomic damages awarded in such cases.

Rick Perry's Texas-sized flip-flop

Last night, Rick Perry talked a good game about states’ rights, but he made a major flip-flop on one issue: “tort reform.” While he has touted his record of defending corporate negligence in the state of Texas, until last night’s debate he steadfastly claimed that efforts to limit corporate liability should be done on the state level. Last night he started to sing a different tune.

Here is the video AAJ put together highlighting his flip-flop:


AAJ Member testifies at House hearing

Today the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held yet another hearing so far removed from the concerns of the American people, this time on asbestos litigation.  Reuters got it right with their article teeing up the hearing: “If there's anyone out there who thinks that unwarranted asbestos litigation is the root cause of America's economic troubles, I think Bank of America may want to hire you as a spokesperson.” 

AAJ member Charles S. Siegel addressed the real problems with asbestos in his written testimony:

“Asbestos was a preventable tragedy that poisoned hundreds of thousands of workers and their families.  Many were poisoned while serving our country in the military.  They have suffered painful, debilitating injuries and deaths, their families have suffered grievous losses.  State law provides a remedy to these families and asbestos victims should not have to apologize for seeking compensation for their injuries.”  

Tens of thousands of American workers and their families have died from asbestos exposure, a product that is still legal in the U.S.  That seems like a far more important issue the Committee should examine, instead of protecting asbestos manufacturers that knowingly killed their workers for decades.