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AAJ President: Blaming lawyers a bogeyman to stop health reform

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American Association for Justice President Anthony Tarricone has an op-ed on CNN.com today, explaining how opponents of real health care reform have turned to attacking trial attorneys and injured patients in a last-ditch effort in derailing legislation.

What’s missing from this debate is how health care affects real patients. Tarricone writes:

Medical negligence affects real people. The Institute of Medicine found, 10 years ago, that up to 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, and countless more are severely injured. This is like two 737s crashing every day for an entire year. If air travel were this unsafe, would we blame the passengers or the airlines?

That is also the crux of AAJ’s 98000reasons.org campaign, which tells the stories of real people injured by medical negligence. One of these people is Jamie Pfeiffer of Bridgewater, Connecticut, who went to see her orthopedist for a problem with her leg. After examination by the orthopedist, Jamie was told that her leg was normal. She came back a few months later with persistent, abnormal swelling in her leg. He conducted an MRI and had the results reviewed by a radiologist. The radiologist told Jamie that the MRI showed some fluid, but no action could be taken. For two years, she continued to have problems with her leg and back. Finally she went to another physician, who informed her that she had a tumor. By that time, the tumor had spread from a small, operable tumor to one that surrounded her entire femur. An above-the-knee amputation was required, as well as aggressive chemotherapy. Jamie is in a wheelchair and still suffers from pain.

Tarricone concludes his op-ed with a message for all who want to use trial attorneys and injured patients as reasons to derail reform efforts:

Next time you hear a baseless attack on trial attorneys or calls for "tort reform," remember what health care is all about: patients. And restricting patients’ legal rights won’t make anyone safer or healthier, nor will it lower costs or cover the uninsured. It’s just another desperate distraction in a debate that has seen its fair share of off-the-wall rhetoric and political theater.

With all the deaths each year from preventable medical errors, this is not a topic that warrants foolishness and nonsense. There is simply too much as stake.

Make sure to read the full op-ed here, and visit 98000reasons.org to learn more. A video of Jamie’s story is also below.