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October 03, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Justice Clarence Thomas, Seething Black Conservative Hero Tells Us How Bad It Has Been

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

There have been more than a few voices expressing, in various ways, discomfort, surprise or puzzlement over the tone and substance of the Clarence Thomas media blitz publicizing the Justice's newly published book. A good example:

Is Clarence Thomas Playing the Race Card Again?

When I watched the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings many moons ago, I was more than a bit surprised to hear him fight back with a claim that the Anita Hill allegations of the hearings were, in his words, a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks."

Judge Thomas once again walks down the road of blaming racism for the sexual harassment investigation.

Eric Turkewitz, New York Personal Injury Law Blog

My reaction to the Justice Thomas "Still Mad As Hell" book tour is that he has had ample time to put the past behind him and focus on performing the 40 year job he has been given by the American people, both black and white, liberal and conservative. Yet, he wants to relive every offense against his inner goodness so we can appreciate his triumph over evil.

None of us should be pleased to learn a Supreme Court justice continues to seethe over issues magnified by his need to brood about his perceived black victimhood and to polish his self image as the heroic, unbowed TRUE BLACK CONSERVATIVE. As I have stated before, Justice Thomas is the most persuasive argument for a reasonable term limit for all Supreme Court justices. Twenty years of warped judicial insight should be more than enough for our country to endure.

September 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Elaborate Ritual Improving Medical Care

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Bad Science Ben Goldacre discusses the placebo effect.

Now as I have said so many times before, the placebo effect is not about a sugar pill, it's about the cultural meaning of a treatment, and our expectations: we know from research that two sugar pills are more effective than one, that a salt water injection is better for pain than a sugar pill, that colour and packaging have a beneficial effect, and so on. Interestingly, there has even been a trial on patients with arm pain specifically comparing a placebo pill against a placebo ritual involving a sham medical device, modeled on acupuncture, which found that the elaborate ritual was more effective than the simple sugar pill. "Placebo" is not a unitary phenomenon, there is not "one type of placebo".

Ben provides some of the results of a recent study of the benefits of acupuncture for patients with chronic back pain. From his point of view the study has more to say regarding the placebo effect than acupuncture per se.

Firstly, 27% of the medical treatment group improved: this is an impressive testament to the well known healing power of simply "being in a trial", since medical treatment hadn't helped these patients for the preceding 8 years. Meanwhile 47% of the acupuncture group improved, but the sting is this: 44% of the fake acupuncture group improved too. There was no statistically significant difference between proper, genuine ancient wisdom acupuncture, and fake, "bung a needle in, anywhere you fancy, with a bit of theatrical ceremony" acupuncture.

Ben got me to thinking. If an elaborate ritual can work for patients might it also work to improve the conduct of doctors? If we could devise an elaborate ritual with a significant cultural meaning could we use it to upgrade the quality of medical care dispensed by the medical profession?

Then, it struck me - we already have such a ritual. It is called the medical malpractice claim.

September 27, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is The Tooth Fairy Causing Increased Hospital Infections?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Are hospital infections actually rising by over 7 percent each year? Or, is the apparent increase just a mirage resulting from hospitals doing a better job?

Upward Trend In Frequency And Cost Of Infections In US Hospitals

A new review of inpatient data from US hospitals shows that the number of infections caused by a common bacterium increased by over 7 percent each year from 1998 to 2003. The attendant economic burden to hospitals increased by nearly 12 percent annually. The research is published in the November 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

Staphylococcus aureus (also known as staph) is a significant cause of a wide range of infectious diseases in humans, ranging from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. In 1998, US hospitals reported a little more than a quarter-million staph infections and slightly over 7 percent of those patients died. By the final year of this study, 2003, hospitals reported nearly 390,000 infections, representing 1 percent of that year's inpatient stays.

The authors suggest one possible reason for the increase in infections is the documented increase of a particularly dangerous type of antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). A more benign possibility is that doctors and hospitals have improved their infection detection and reporting practices.

The third possibility is that the tooth fairy is not washing her hands as she makes her rounds through the wards.

September 24, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Post-Claims Underwriting Makes Insurance Coverage Disappear

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

By the time you are 50 years old your medical history is beginning to look like a lengthy novel. But, unlike a novel, it is not neatly written in a single bound volume. It is scattered throughout the country in the records of various health care providers, hospitals, health insurance companies and laboratories. It is also poorly recorded, with major league errors and omissions, in your cluttered memory.

All of this is well known to the insurance industry. It is the underlying corporate rationale for the industry's post-claims underwriting. Your filing of a significant health insurance claim is the trigger for the medical sleuths in your insurance carrier's underwriting department to roll up their sleeves and find something, almost anything, you failed to include in your insurance application. Then, comes the announcement: If we had known this fact we would not have provided this coverage to you. Sorry. Your refund check is enclosed.

It is this despicable business practice that is the subject of an article at Law.com.

Plaintiffs Await Ruling on Canceled Health Insurance Policies

William Shernoff says he has been bringing lawsuits over canceled health insurance policies since the 1980s. Lately, however, that part of the Southern California plaintiff lawyer's practice has exploded: Last year, Shernoff filed about 70 lawsuits for people who have gotten stuck with hefty medical bills when an insurance company revoked their coverage by claiming they falsified or omitted important details on their applications. He's on pace to file about the same number this year.

So far, Shernoff says, litigation over the insurance companies' practice -- often referred to as post-claims underwriting -- hasn't led to any significant case law. He said most cases end with dismissals or confidential settlements, adding that the settlements can be substantial, a point disputed by lawyers for insurers.

But next week, the Santa Ana, Calif.-based 4th District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a closely watched case that challenges Blue Shield of California's practice of rescinding coverage based on inaccuracies in an application. If the challenge in Hailey v. California Physicians' Service, G035579, succeeds, plaintiff and defense lawyers say more cases may wind up in trial -- or lead to more lucrative settlements.

Blue Shield argues...it can rescind coverage when someone's made a misrepresentation material to the company's decision to offer them a health plan.

Plaintiff attorneys in the field contend...that a showing of willful misrepresentation is required before yanking coverage...

From Law.com

The difference between a misrepresentation and a willful misrepresentation is one that matters a lot to the insurance industry. It knows finding the former is a relatively simple and frequent occurrence. But, finding the latter...that is far from easy.

September 09, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Greedy Trial Lawyer Fixer - Using Blame For Good

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

As a greedy trial lawyer who has sought just compensation for those who have suffered because of bad medical practice, I don't have a lot of time to involve myself in other social causes. It takes major-league time and effort to get medical providers to do the right thing. Only an occasional doctor has announced during his depostion, "I blew it." The rest have waged all-out war to defend really stupid actions. I have been forced to go into surge mode in just about every claim.

Despite my decades of operating in a hostile environment, I believe making the healthcare system acknowledge its mistakes and compensate the victims of incompetence has been a worthwhile personal crusade.

After reading an article by Trisha Torrey I now recognize how much I have helped my clients and the medical profession by being a Fixer.

Blamers and Fixers: Which One Are You?

I've put the people who write to me about medical errors they have suffered into two categories: The Blamers and the Fixers

The Blamers are those who [are] livid-angry, and they ask me to do things that will help distribute their anger further. They want me to help them write letters to doctors or hospitals or others who have wronged them. They want me to help yank a doctor's license to practice, or help them sue a provider, or participate in whatever form of punishment they believe is appropriate.

Their anger is just so palpable. And I get it! I was there! After my misdiagnosis, I talked to anyone who wanted to listen in hopes it would somehow diffuse my anger.

The Fixers are a step beyond. Fixers are people who have been hurt by the system, and have turned that bad experience into something else more positive.

Among my advocate-colleagues, you'd be amazed at how many of us are fixers. Very few have just chosen to take up the cause of patient advocacy out of the blue. Instead, their children have been killed by bad surgeries, or they've lost a spouse or parent to a medical error, or a diagnosis has been missed (or misdiagnosed all together) and someone they love -- or they themselves -- have been treated incorrectly.

The Fixing itself becomes the catharsis for the anger, and it is extremely powerful.

From Every Patient's Advocate

I know there will be some who want to tag me as a Blamer, but sometimes you've got to throw some blame around to fix things.

September 06, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is Your "Financial Adviser" Over-Titled?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The free lunch you ate at the recent noon financial planning seminar may give you or your family severe indigestion.

Investment Pitches Prey On Elderly

Government officials worry that unscrupulous financial advisers are preying on retirees by calling themselves senior experts, using fancy titles to lure the elderly to marketing seminars and then locking up their savings in investments that carry high commissions and withdrawal fees.

Federal regulators and authorities in seven states are set to release the results of an investigation of firms that run "free lunch" investment seminars, which draw large numbers of retirees. The results, said Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, are "deeply disturbing" and have produced multiple law enforcement referrals.

SEC leaders and their state counterparts will host a day-long summit Monday to discuss a nationwide approach to combating bogus yet official-sounding titles that salesmen use to curry favor with older investors.

From the washingtonpost.com

Tomorrow I am going to cancel my upcoming meeting with my Financial Analyst, Financial Adviser, Financial Consultant, Financial Planner, Investment Consultant, Mutual Funds Expert, Insurance Guru and Wealth Manager. My time may be better spent with a dart board.

September 04, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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ER Doctors May Have Less Experience Than You Think

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Why you may want to ask your ER doctor this question: So, doc, have you sutured any wounds lately?

Are emergency department junior doctors becoming less experienced in performing common practical procedures?

A questionnaire was designed to assess junior doctors' experience of performing common practical procedures. Six procedures commonly performed in the emergency department were selected following discussion with the emergency department consultants as follows:

*Colles fracture manipulation

*Dislocated shoulder manipulation

*Suturing wounds

*Exploring wounds

*Abscess drainage

*Chest drain insertion

A perceived reduction in experience was noted for all listed procedures between the junior doctors in 2005 and those in 2006. The decrease in experience of performing shoulder manipulation, suturing and exploring wounds was statistically significant.

Emergency Medicine Journal 2007;24:657-658

August 27, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Crocs Eat Flip-Flops For Lunch

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

In the midst of our national debates over Iraq and Health Care there has been the ongoing footwear controversy: Are Crocs better than flip-flops? The latest salvo:

Flip-flops causing slips and trips -- and serious injuries

This summer has been the season of the flip-flop, particularly among women ages 25 to 35, said Harold B. Glickman, DPM, past president of the American Podiatric Medical Assn.

The ubiquitous footwear, once only seen at the beach or pool, has become acceptable workplace attire, Dr. Glickman lamented.

"They really give no support to the foot and ankle. They are dangerous in the sense that if caught in an intersection with the light changing and having to run, you can fall, slip and really injure yourself," he said. "And not just your foot and ankle, but the rest of your body, too."

Stubbed and broken toes and ripped-off toenails have been seen too often this summer. "A lot more discretion should be used in wearing them," Dr. Glickman said.

As for that other shoe of summer, Crocs, there is good news. Despite news stories about the soft, often vividly hued, plastic shoes getting caught in escalators, they are generally regarded as safe and certainly better than flip-flops. "I don't know that I would wear them 24/7," Dr. Glickman said, "but I do wear them around the house and for garden work."

They provide good traction and may even be a good substitute for sneakers because they aren't as confining, Dr. Glickman said.

Shades of the boxer-brief debate!

August 25, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Unlawful" Is As "Unlawful" Does - The Bush Doctrine

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Do you see a difference between aliens and illegal aliens? We now have evidence that the Bush Administration may not.

AP: WH Urges Judges to "Look Beyond the Letter of the Law"

The AP reports "The Bush administration argued Friday that discrepancies between the nation's new terror law and the way it is being carried out should not stall one of the Pentagon's first terrorism trials."

Arguing before the newly formed U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, government attorneys urged judges to look beyond the letter of the law when deciding whether the military undermined its terrorism tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.

The case hinges on a single word: unlawful. Before terror suspects can be prosecuted before military commissions, the law requires they be deemed "unlawful enemy combatants." But Guantanamo Bay tribunals have simply been calling them "enemy combatants."

Lawyers for Omar Khadr argue that's a fatal flaw in the government's case and that Khadr can't go before a military commission. If the three-judge appeals court agrees, it could force the Pentagon to redo tribunals for dozens of detainees.

Frankly, I am surprised the government didn't just designate the suspects as evildoers and be done with it.

August 23, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Health Benefits Of A Short Ambulance Ride

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

After you read the results of this important study published in a respected medical journal I have an observation to make.

The relationship between distance to hospital and patient mortality in emergencies: an observational study

We aimed to determine whether distance to hospital was associated with mortality in patients with life-threatening emergencies.

Conclusion: Increased journey distance to hospital appears to be associated with increased risk of mortality.

Emergency Medicine Journal 2007;24:665-668

My observation: I suspect the time of the journey may actually have been the culprit and not the distance. Of course, it could have been the speed of the ambulance or its size. But, that would require another study.

August 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bullet's Path Should End This Matter

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

This news story falls in the No Harm No Foul category. I believe all charges and accusations against both men involved should be forgotten and they should have a beer together to celebrate the good luck that allowed both to live another day.

Trooper under scrutiny for alcohol levels during shooting

CHARLES CITY (AP) -- The state trooper who shot a man for allegedly trying to run him over is being investigated after tests showed he had alcohol in his system during the incident last winter.

Trooper Mark Domino was the key witness in the trial Tuesday against William Filippo Jr. of Cedar Falls, who is accused of driving his vehicle at Domino during a chase Feb. 16 south of Charles City.

Filippo was initially charged with attempted murder after his arrest. Prosecutors changed the charge to assault with a dangerous weapon, eluding and drunk driving, in exchange for Filippo dropping the request for a jury trial. His blood-alcohol level was 0.2 percent, more than double the legal limit.

Officials said the chase began when Domino tried to stop Filippo and question him about a hit-and-run earlier in the day.

During the chase, both vehicles ended up in a snow-filled median along U.S. Highway 218. That's when Domino got out of his squad car and Filippo drove at him, officials said.

Domino fired his gun, one bullet hitting Filippo behind his left ear, and exiting near his right eye. He was hospitalized for about a week.

Doesn't this bullet trajectory tell us these could be two of the luckiest humans on earth? Shake hands, fellas, and go hug your wives and children.

August 18, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bacteria Have To Be Laughing At Us

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I need to mount my soap box for this post.

It may be hard to believe, but Corporate America has been manufacturing and selling a product that serves no useful purpose and is, itself, harmful.

Antibacterial Soap May Render Antibiotics Less Effective And Is No More Effective Than Plain Soap

Antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps and, in fact, may render some common antibiotics less effective, says a University of Michigan public health professor.

In the first known comprehensive analysis of whether antibacterial soaps work better than plain soaps, Allison Aiello of the U-M School of Public Health and her team found that washing hands with an antibacterial soap was no more effective in preventing infectious illness than plain soap. Moreover, antibacterial soaps at formulations sold to the public do not remove any more bacteria from the hands during washing than plain soaps.

Because of the way the main active ingredient---triclosan---in many antibacterial soaps reacts in the cells, it may cause some bacteria to become resistant to commonly used drugs such as amoxicillin, the researchers say. These changes have not been detected at the population level, but e-coli bacteria bugs adapted in lab experiments showed resistance when exposed to as much as 0.1 percent wt/vol triclosan soap.

August 09, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Physician Mindsets Create Greedy Trial Lawyer Mindsets

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Richard L. Reece, MD, posting at MEDINNOVATIONBLOG, has identified what he calls five Physician Mindsets.

Five Physician Mindsets and Trends

Mindsets work like fixed stars in our heads. Holding on to them, our mind drifting like a ship in an ocean of information, finds orientation. They keep it on course and guide it safely to its destination.

Physician Mindset Number One - Physicians on the ground prefer incremental changes through expanding coverage through tax incentives and market-driven changes rather than through a single-payer system.

Physician Mindset Number Two - Physicians are adapting to downward pressure on their incomes and harassing rules and regulations by becoming hospital employees.

Physician Mindset Number Three - Physicians regard consumer-driven care with skepticism and tend to be reactive rather than proactive in adapting to change.

[For Mindsets Four and Five you will have to read Dr. Reece's original article.]

One Physician Mindset observed by me (and probably every other trial lawyer who has ever deposed a defendant physician in a medical malpractice case) is: Physicians do not believe anything they do is ever a breach of the accepted standard of care. They believe whatever they do or fail to do is just part of this thing called the practice of medicine.

This leads to a Greedy Trial Lawyer Mindset: Greedy trial lawyers believe many defendant docs are arrogant bastards who are incapable of admitting a mistake.

August 06, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Why You Wait Longer And Get More Prescriptions At Your Doctor's Office

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

If your doctor is classified as a heavy prescriber it is likely 25 drug company representatives a week drop in for a chat bearing gifts. What does this mean for you? Even more pills are prescribed and your waiting time gets longer.

What drug rep visits cost you

Nationwide, there are an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 reps; each calls on eight to 10 physician offices a day. Some practices may get only two to four visits a week. However, in 2005 and 2006, primary care physicians deemed as "heavy prescribers" were called on by an average of 29 reps a week, according to Health Strategies Group, a research firm that tracks the pharmaceutical industry.

How those visits break down hints at the possible strain on physician practice: In 2005, 85 percent were drop-ins, 5 percent were appointments, and 10 percent were lunch dates.

From Medical Economics

August 03, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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AMA Awakens To Insurance Scam Of Unprompt Payments

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The American Medical Association (AMA) is beginning to believe health insurance carriers are intentionally complicating and delaying the payment of claims. Has the AMA been brain-dead for the last 20 years?

AMA To Congress: Stop Unfair Business Practices Of Health Insurers

"The AMA urges Congress to pass legislation that will:

-- Establish a strong federal prompt pay standard;
-- Protect more robust prompt pay state laws by ensuring the federal standard is the "floor"

"Small physician practices have limited leverage relative to large insurance companies since antitrust laws prevent physicians as a group from addressing payment and other contract terms on a level playing field.

"The ability of physicians to address unfair payment practices continues to diminish with the increasing consolidation of health insurers. In the majority of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, a single health insurer dominates the market.

"The growing disparity in negotiating positions has created an environment where insurers are able to evade prompt payment laws with little, if any, adverse consequence. This has a financially debilitating effect on small physician practices and could limit patient access.

"When one side has all the market power, more efficient market mechanisms are hampered. A common problem confronted by many physicians is insurers paying claims late. Even if a claim includes all the appropriate information, insurance companies often find reasons to delay or deny payment. This is tantamount to small physician practices extending interest free loans to large insurance companies.

"In addition, this, seemingly intentional behavior by the insurer, creates an onerous administrative burden. Physicians and their staff must spend hours on the phone pursuing payment of unpaid claims. In fact, growing numbers of physician practices have been forced to hire office staff dedicated solely to collecting late payments."

August 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Texas Judges See No Need For Tort Reform

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Judges have a front row seat in the civil justice system. They also are presumed to be impartial as between the plaintiff and defense bar. Their observations about the fairness of the jury system and the need for more tort reform might be worth knowing.

Tort Reform: Straight From the Horse's (or the Judge's) Mouth

For years, Texas residents have been hearing about runaway juries, frivolous lawsuits, and the need for tort reform. But most of the stories in the popular press and thrown around by tort reform groups are anecdotal; there has always been a question of how to best gather data to measure whether jury awards are excessive or suits are frivolous.

...for the last two years, the professors have conducted a survey of Texas District Court Judges to get their views on the "litigation crises." After receiving responses from an astounding 78% of Texas district court judges, the results of the survey were released in the Baylor Law Review in an article titled Straight From the Horse's Mouth: Judicial Observations of Jury Behavior and the Need For Tort Reform.

Because the article is not yet publicly available, we don't want to provide too many details. But we will say that among the results were findings that substantially more judges thought juries had awarded too low of damages than judges that thought juries had awarded too much. And well over 80% of the judges did not think there needed to be additional "reform" to address frivolous lawsuits.

July 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Outpatient Surgery - Do Risks Outweigh Benefits?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A surgeon is supposed to inform a surgical candidate of the risks and benefits of the surgical procedure. This information, when provided, enables the patient to give an informed consent to the surgery.

In at least 31% of scheduled surgeries there also is a need for a discussion of the risks and benefits of using the particular surgical facility.

The spotlight grows on outpatient surgery

[R}isks...exist when a patient chooses to have surgery outside a hospital and far from emergency medical services, says Lee Fleisher, chairman of anesthesiology and critical care for the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia.

Fleisher has studied those risks and says that as the number of outpatient surgical centers blossoms, it's key for patients to learn the benefits and drawbacks of non-hospital-based surgery. Of the 50 million surgeries performed annually, he says, 31% occur at free-standing ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) where no hospital or emergency department is attached and patients go home the same day

Fleisher is concerned that as more older patients and people with multiple chronic conditions choose surgery at outpatient clinics, adequate postoperative and emergency services may not be at hand.

Minorities and older patients with multiple medical problems are more likely to require postoperative emergency care, several studies show. "We're concerned that as more ASCs perform more surgeries on older, higher-risk groups, those people will not be close enough to emergency services if they need them," Fleisher says.

From USA Today

Since outpatient surgical centers are frequently owned by surgeons, just how often are the risks of using the facility mentioned or properly presented? And, while we are on the topic, just how often is the surgical patient told who owns the facility? Just wondering.

July 25, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctor Errors Are As Common As The Air We Breathe

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A reasonable assumption is that every doctor has made mistakes in patient care. I mean, if 92% admit making mistakes we have to conclude that the remaining 8% are lying or oblivious to their mistakes.

Doctors are Human, too [Would the better title be, Doctors Are Too Human?]

A report from the AP last week, and reported by the Washington Post, Fox News and others, describes a survey of more than 3,000 doctors in both the US and Canada about their reactions to their own mistakes.

The survey was developed and issued by the Joint Commission (JCAHO), the body that accredits hospitals and other health care facilities. It asked doctors whether they had affected any near misses, minor medical errors, or serious medical errors which may have caused permanent or potentially life threatening harm.

92% admitted they had been involved in errors. And those involved also reported that after they made the errors, they felt increased anxiety about the potential for future mistakes, less confidence in their abilities, they reported sleep problems and a loss of job satisfaction.

The number is huge -- 92% !! We all make mistakes, granted, but our mistakes don't usually cause harm to other lives. That's 92 of every 100 doctors. We know that translates to almost 100,000 deaths per year, too. I don't know how to do that math, but those numbers are huge.

So perhaps the biggest takeaway from this report is that we patients need to internalize is the sheer numbers of doctors who make mistakes. And we patients need to practice defensive treatment seeking.

Because at least 92% of our doctors are making errors and we are the ones paying the price.

Posted by Trisha Torrey at EVERY PATIENT'S ADVOCATE

July 21, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Malpractice Settlements Fairer To Medical Providers Than To Patients - Honest

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Our fair and balanced president, George W. Bush, has explained ["I am the Explainer"] how medical providers are regularly extorted into paying outlandish sums to settle meritless malpractice claims:

Doctors and hospitals realize... it is expensive to fight a lawsuit even if it doesn't have any merit. And because the system is so unpredictable, there is a constant risk of being hit by a massive jury award. So doctors end up paying tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle claims out of court, even when they know they have done nothing wrong.

The truth, not surprisingly, is quite different.

The Fairness of Malpractice Settlements

Is this claim [let's call it the Bush Extortion Theory] correct? The strongest empirical support for it comes from the 1996 findings of the researchers who directed the Harvard study of New York hospitals. They concluded that the merits of a malpractice claim have no bearing on the likelihood of a settlement. They even suggested that the entire adjudicative process is "an expensive sideshow" in which settlement is really driven by damages, not negligence.

The widespread reliance of both tort critics and the mass media [and the Explainer] on this single prestigious study is unfortunate. Its findings are decidedly inconsistent with the substantial body of empirical data accumulated over the past several decades.

Those studies demonstrate, contrary to the Harvard study, that settlement outcomes are directly correlated with the strength of the plaintiff's case.

Over the past quarter of a century, more than a dozen studies have collected data on malpractice settlements. With only one exception, they have consistently shown that plaintiffs with strong cases are more likely to receive a settlement payment than plaintiffs with weak cases. When strong cases settle,
the average payment is substantially larger than the average payment in weak cases.

Moreover, the data on malpractice settlement strongly suggests that liability insurers possess a palpable advantage in bargaining power. On average, malpractice claims settle for less than their expected value. The most likely sources of that bargaining power are the defendant's superior risk tolerance,
better access to information, more experienced attorneys and insurance representatives, easier access to expert witnesses, and the incentive to fight low-odds claims vigorously. Defendants probably gain additional bargaining power from trial lawyer awareness that malpractice claims are very hard to win at trial, even with strong evidence of negligence.

The overall performance of the settlement process should be reassuring to those physicians who are willing to listen. Quality of care drives settlement outcomes. To the extent that settlement outcomes depart from the merits, the discrepancies usually favor malpractice defendants. Although physicians may find it hard to believe, it will be hard to design an evenhanded adjudicative process that treats them much better.

From an article by Philip G. Peters, Jr., University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law

July 17, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Message From Earth To America's Ayatollah

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

David Brooks of the New York Times has just returned from a pilgrimage to the White House where he had an audience with Ayatollah Bush.

I spent the first four days of last week interviewing senators about Iraq. The mood ranged from despondency to despair. Then on Friday I went to the Roosevelt Room in the White House to hear President Bush answer questions on the same subject. It was like entering a different universe.

Far from being beleaguered, Bush was assertive and good-humored.

I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency.

His self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: "It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist."

Second, Bush remains energized by the power of the presidency. Some presidents complain about the limits of the office. But Bush, despite all the setbacks, retains a capacious view of the job and its possibilities.

Unfortunately, as is often the situation in theological matters, on the other side of the world are other ayatollah's who are convinced their Almighty has provided other gifts.

If we could get our American Ayatollah to take off his robes and actually perform the job of President of the U.S. it is possible the power of his office could actually accomplish something beneficial during his final year in office.

July 16, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Deployable Troops To Run Out At Just The Right Moment

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I have not been to Iraq. I am not a military expert. I have never served in the military. However, I can spot a coincidence when I see one. See if you can spot one too in this excerpt from a New York Times article.

U.S. General in Iraq Speaks Strongly Against Troop Pullout

BAGHDAD, July 15 -- An American general directing a major part of the offensive aimed at securing Baghdad said Sunday that it would take until next spring for the operation to succeed, and that an early American withdrawal would clear the way for "the enemy to come back" to areas now being cleared of insurgents.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding 15,000 American and about 7,000 Iraqi troops on Baghdad's southern approaches, spoke more forcefully than any American commander to date in urging that the so-called troop surge ordered by President Bush continue into the spring of 2008. That would match the deadline of March 31 set by the Pentagon, which has said that limits on American troops available for deployment will force an end to the increase by then.

"It's going to take us through the summer and fall to deny the enemy his sanctuaries" south of Baghdad, General Lynch said at a news briefing in the capital. "And then it's going to take us through the first of the year and into the spring" to consolidate the gains now being made by the American offensive and to move enough Iraqi forces into the cleared areas to ensure that they remain so, he said.

The new American motto: We will fight until we run out of troops available for deployment. This will strike terror in the hearts of terrorists.

July 15, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Keep Your Eye On The Genome

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Mankind is still evolving, but not necessarily in the direction of perfection. Any serious presidential candidate or greedy trial lawyer should follow this research.

Recent Changes Discovered In The Human Genome

A Cornell study of genome sequences in African-Americans, European-Americans and Chinese suggests that natural selection has caused as much as 10 percent of the human genome to change in some populations in the last 15,000 to 100,000 years, when people began migrating from Africa.

In the latest study, the researchers identified 101 regions of the human genome with strong evidence of very recent selection. These regions include genes that control proteins that help muscle cells attach to surrounding cells (mutations of this gene lead to muscular dystrophy), receptors that relate to hearing, genes involved in nervous system function and development, immune system genes and heat shock genes.

"It is important to emphasize that the research does not state that one group is more evolved or better adapted than another," said co-author Carlos Bustamante, a Cornell assistant professor of biological statistics and computational biology. "Rather as humans have populated the world, there has been strong selective pressure at the genetic level for fortuitous mutations that allow digestion of a new food source or tolerate infection by a pathogen that the population may not have faced in a previous environment."

My own study of the human race, American subtype, also shows environmental pressure causing genome change. Although my full report is not quite ready for publication I can already say with certainty Americans are evolving in the following ways:

1) Shorter attention spans for anything complicated or nuanced.

2) An emotional need for almost continuous cellphone conversations.

3) More primitive, mystical religious beliefs.

4) Enjoyment of less understandable song lyrics.

What does this mean for those of us who seek to communicate effectively with our fellow Americans? (This applies equally to trial lawyers and presidential candidates.)

It means the most effective vehicle to get a message across would be to do it in a one minute rap-like chant of easily digested but garbled sound bites beginning with the words, Before the Rapture, broadcast to the jury or to every potential voter by Sprint.

July 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Text This To Your Teen Driver: Watch The Road

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Matt Noyes at Noyes Legal News discusses the multi-tasking habits of teenagers.

Survey Says . . .Teenage Drivers Admit to Risky Driving Habits

Sixty-one percent of teens admit to risky driving habits according to a survey by AAA and Seventeen Magazine. Of that 61%, 46% say that they text messages when driving and 51% talk on cell phones while driving.

Other teens in the vehicle can be a major distraction for teen drivers, and driver distraction is a factor in 25%-50% of all car accidents.

The survey also found that 40% of teens exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more while driving, and 11% of teens admit to drinking or using other drugs before getting behind the wheel.

The survey, featured in Seventeen Magazine's upcoming August issue highlights the risks teenager drivers experience, but also highlights the risk to others that young, inexperienced drivers impose while engaging in risky habits.

A loose end - how does Matt get advance copies of Seventeen Magazine issues?

July 08, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Pediatricians Are Rare Targets Of Malpractice Claims

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Pediatricians may be the most conscientious and competent specialists in medicine.

Do Pediatricians Face A Malpractice Crisis?

Indiana University study provides hard evidence previously lacking.

"We studied pediatricians and malpractice because while the medical malpractice issue is extremely stressful and gets a lot of press, and we all have heard numerous horror stories and anecdotes, there is little actual data reported, especially for pediatricians. So we took a retrospective, comprehensive look at malpractice claims against pediatricians. Surprisingly, we found that from 1985-2005 society hasn't become more litigious, at least not vis-a-vis pediatricians," said Aaron E. Carroll, assistant professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute, Inc. affiliated scientist.

"While I don't want to minimize the horror of being sued, the numbers don't bear this [malpractice] out as a problem for pediatricians," said Dr. Carroll.

Although children are responsible for a large percentage of healthcare consumption, he found that pediatricians accounted for only 2.97% of all malpractice claims.

Another explanation for this situation - one that I would accept - is the relationship which develops between pediatricians and families. Surgeons, anesthesiologists and radiologists are usually not able to spend years sharing family experiences with their patients. Many would not recognize their patients at a shopping mall. As many trial lawyers know, clients frequently prohibit even the consideration of a claim against Doc Jones "who has been part of our family for over 23 years."

July 07, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Appearing At A Hospital Near You - Greedy Medical Providers

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Surprise! There are Greedy Hospitals, Greedy Doctors, Greedy Laboratories and Greedy Medical Clinics.

NEJM Editor Calls For Health System Change In Chicago Tribune Interview

The Chicago Tribune on Sunday published an interview with Arnold Relman, an editor at the New England Journal of Medicine and a professor at Harvard Medical School who has written a book, titled "A Second Opinion," that calls for reforms to the U.S. health care system. During the interview, Relman said, "What makes medicine in the U.S. more expensive than in all the other countries is the commercialization of our health care system," adding, "It doesn't matter if you're for-profit or not-for-profit, everyone is concerned about maximizing income."

July 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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In China, Quality Is Not Exactly Job 1

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Made in China means Buyer Beware.

Inspectors Say Nearly 1 in 5 Chinese Products Substandard

Chinese government inspectors report that nearly one-fifth of the products they examined this year were substandard. The report follows months of increasing publicity over tainted foods and unsafe products made in China and sold both domestically and overseas. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing. China's General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine says in the first half of this year more than 19 percent of inspected Chinese products made for domestic consumption failed national quality and safety standards.

The rate of failure among small manufacturers was even worse, at 27 percent. Small manufacturers account for about 75 percent of all food processing operations.

The inspection agency says it surveyed more than 6,000 companies and seven thousand products, focusing mainly on food and consumer goods.

From the Voice of America

In fairness to the Chinese I wonder what the results would be if the American General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine tested American-made products. Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have a General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine. We have the FDA.

July 04, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Can You Name The Most Addictive Drug In America?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

"Laboratory experiments confirm that cocaine alters the structure and function of the brain within a day of the very first dose. In humans, cocaine-induced alterations in the brain can trigger addiction with the first use." This would be a frightening finding and virtually everyone would support the public policy that outlaws cocaine's sale and distribution.

Unfortunately, the laboratory experiments were not about cocaine. Nicotine was the subject of the experiments and the sentence actually read: "Laboratory experiments confirm that nicotine alters the structure and function of the brain within a day of the very first dose. In humans, nicotine-induced alterations in the brain can trigger addiction with the first cigarette."

So, why are cigarettes legally sold and heavily taxed?

Just one cigarette can lead to addiction: study

Some young people show signs of addiction after inhaling just one cigarette, say U.S. researchers.

In a four-year study of more than 1,200 sixth-grade students in Massachusetts, 10 per cent of those who smoked were addicted within two days of first inhaling, and another 25 per cent were hooked within a month.

Some young people show signs of addiction after inhaling just one cigarette, say U.S. researchers.

In a four-year study of more than 1,200 sixth-grade students in Massachusetts, 10 per cent of those who smoked were addicted within two days of first inhaling, and another 25 per cent were hooked within a month.

Among the 217 students who had smoked, just over half became addicted.

"Laboratory experiments confirm that nicotine alters the structure and function of the brain within a day of the very first dose. In humans, nicotine-induced alterations in the brain can trigger addiction with the first cigarette," Joseph R. DiFranza, a professor of family medicine & community health, said in a news release.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

July 03, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Wal-Mart, The Not-So-Grim Reaper

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Wal-Mart has claimed it has an insurable interest in all of its full-time employees. That means it purchased life insurance, naming itself as a beneficiary, on about 350,000 employees. You have to wonder if the company has obtained life insurance on its regular shoppers.

Attorney: Wal-Mart Collected On Deaths

By ELAINE SILVESTRINI The Tampa Tribune

When Karen Armatrout died in 1997, her employer, Wal-Mart, collected thousands of dollars on a life insurance policy the retail giant had taken out without telling her, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

Armatrout was one of about 350,000 employees Wal-Mart secretly insured nationwide, said Texas attorney Michael D. Myers, who estimated the company collected on 75 to 100 policies involving Florida employees who died.

Myers said the policy payouts ranged from $50,000 to $80,000, depending on the person's age and gender. They were taken out on all full-time Wal-Mart employees who, in December 1993, were between ages 18 and 70 and participated in the medical benefits plan.

He said the company stopped taking out the policies in 1995 but continued to receive payouts on employees who died, even those who had left Wal-Mart.

Even after employees leave their jobs at Wal-Mart they continue to contribute to the bottom line.

July 01, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Lying Eyewear - Safety Eyewear Does Not Meet Voluntary Standard

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Seeing Clearly Now is one of the topical categories on my blog. The news today about safety eyewear is, unfortunately, a perfect fit for the topic.

Safety Eyewear Fails Testing

Did you know that over 2,000 work-related eye injuries occur every day in the USA? Eye injuries cost the economy over $300 million annually due to lost productivity, medical expenses and workers' compensation.

New data from the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) challenges the effectiveness of protection in safety eyewear offered by several leading manufacturers.

The issue concerns a voluntary industry safety standard called ANSI Z87.1. Safety eyewear that claims to meet the ANSI 287.1 standard are expected to withstand a high velocity, high energy impact. ICO researchers tested 75 safety spectacle frames from five different manufacturers. Each frame was fitted with durable polycarbonate lenses by laboratory experts. The eyewear then underwent a series of high velocity, high mass pellet strikes that simulated real-world mechanical forces. The frames from half of the eyewear samples failed the safety tests. Metal frames fared poorest.

Only one manufacturer's products passed all of the tests - A2 frames from Hilco.

Eye safety experts point out that there is no government oversight regarding ANSI standards - it depends solely on manufacturer self-regulation.

From WebMD

What about making it a crime for any manufacturer to falsely claim its product meets a safety standard and allowing the award of punitive damages for any injuries that result from the defective condition of the product? And, a mandatory recall of the product when the false claim is discovered?

June 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Coming Of The Faith-Based Bar Examination

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Religions are getting pretty microscopic in the conduct they prohibit. Apparently, one religion now proscribes the answering of bar examination questions that require the applicant to accept, support and promote homosexual marriage and parenting. I suspect the same religion prohibits answering bar examination questions that require the applicant to accept, support and promote family planning, condom use, embryonic stem cell research, habeas corpus for evildoers and working on the Sabbath.

What this country needs is a faith-based bar examination.

MA: Failed Applicant Sues Bar Examiners Over Test Question on Gay Marriage

A Massachusetts bar examination applicant who claims he failed the test because he didn't answer a question about homosexual marriage and parenting is suing the test administration agency, the state Supreme Judicial Court and four individual justices for constitutional violations.

Dunne claims his score of 268.866 on the November 2006 bar exam just missed the passing score of 270 points because he didn't follow the proscribed format for an unlawful question about gay marriage. Dunne said the question required applicants to "affirmatively accept, support and promote homosexual marriage and homosexual parenting." Dunne claims the defendants violated his First Amendment right to exercise his religion and violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He also claims their actions impose illegal state regulations on interstate commerce.

Dunne failed to mention how insensitive it was of the bar examiners to ask him to think like a lawyer.

June 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bush Has "Moved The Courts" To Another Planet

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Emily Bazelon, at Slate, asks the question - What do the liberal and moderate lawyers who supported John Roberts' nomination say today?

Emily's article is posted at Sorry Now? and is worth a read.

The second page of the article raises a concept that needs to be taken to the trash heap of history.

In those preconfirmation days in 2005, there was one more argument for broad support for Roberts and Alito. Benjamin Wittes, a member of the Washington Post editorial board when it backed both of Bush's picks, reminded me of it in an e-mail this morning. He has no regrets about his support for Roberts, because he expected to disagree with him on key votes and thought he should be confirmed nonetheless. "Presidents have a legitimate right to move the courts and the principal check on this power is not the confirmation process but, rather, a certain ideological diversity of presidents over time," he writes.

Because of the life-expectancy and lifetime appointments of Supreme Court Justices some presidents are always going to have the opportunity to "move the courts" whereas other presidents, also elected by the voting citizens of the U.S., never even get to nudge the courts. A president who is eager and able to "move the courts" should be checked by the Senate advice and consent function. Nobody seriously believed the Alito and Roberts appointments were intended to simply fill vacancies with fair-minded legal scholars. These nominees were, despite their statements to the contrary, activists fully intent on making major changes in our jurisprudence.

It may take 20 or more years to see any diminishment of the rightward swing and pro-business agenda of the U.S. Supreme Court because the Senate allowed President Bush to "move the courts". Maybe the nation can survive this judicial relocation; but, as I have said in other articles, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have moved to another planet.

June 27, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Take The Pens From Docs And Save Some Lives

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I propose a ban on all handwritten physician orders in hospitals. From now on all doctors will have to use a computer keypad just as they do when surfing the web, sending email, participating in fantasy football and sending letters to editors complaining about greedy trial lawyers and frivolous malpractice lawsuits. Why take the pen out of the hand of the docs? Because, they don't know how to write so other people know what they mean.

Just What the Doctor Ordered. Review of the Evidence of the Impact of Computerized Physician Order Entry System on Medication Errors

From press release (NewsWise):

Doctors are famous for sloppy scribbling -- and handwritten prescriptions lead to thousands of medication errors each year. Electronics to the rescue: U.S. hospitals that switched to computerized physician order entry systems saw a 66 percent drop in prescription errors, according to a new review of studies.

Thanks to Shirl Kennedy at Docuticker

June 26, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Alito, Alito, He's Our Man...From Corporate America Songbook

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

It may not be as glamorous as the Academy Award won by former Vice President Al Gore, but Justice Samuel Alito has been awarded the Bloomie as the Pro-Business Champion of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Bush may have a friend in Jesus, but corporations have Alito - for years and years and years.

Alito Champions Business Causes in First Full High-Court Term

In what may have been the most pro- business U.S. Supreme Court term in decades, standing out as companies' No. 1 ally was no small feat. Justice Samuel Alito managed it in his first full year.

As the court term comes to a close this week, Alito has emerged as the justice friendliest to the interests of corporations. He sided with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobby, in 13 of 14 cases this term, more often than any of his colleagues. He cast votes to limit punitive damages, ease regulation and restrict suits by investors, consumers and alleged victims of job bias.

"On the cases where it's possible to differentiate the justices, he's been on the pro-business side every time," said Roy Englert, a Washington lawyer with Robbins Russell Englert Orseck & Untereiner who won a telecommunications case he argued before the court this year.

From Bloomberg.com.

Why don't we just appoint a corporation or business organization to the court instead of a person? I propose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

June 26, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Clean Hands Doctrine May Save Your Life

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Trisha Torrey, posting at EVERY PATIENT'S ADVOCATE, says health care providers in the hospital setting are lax about washing their hands. And, she tells us why we should care.

MRSA: Killing More Americans everyday

APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) is holding its annual meeting this week, and today published the results of its latest findings on the number of people who die from MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and other HAIs (hospital acquired infections). These are superbug staph infections, usually acquired by hospital patients, but sometimes transmitted in the community as well. Superbugs are called such because they have developed a resistance to drugs -- nothing can kill them.

That means -- once a patient contracts a MRSA infection, s/he usually can't get rid of it. S/he will be infected for the rest of his/her life.

Bottom line? Between 48,000 and 119,000 patients per year may be acquiring these infections. That represents 46 per 1,000 patients. These numbers are much higher than previously believed, and higher than reported in previous studies. In particular, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had previously reported only 3.9 deaths per thousand.

If I'm doing my own math correctly, that means that the REAL rate is 120 times WORSE than what we thought?

And the thing that ticks me off about this the most? These infections are PREVENTABLE! If the proper precautions are taken in hospitals, then there is no reason why patients should acquire staph infections in the hospital. None.

And do you know what the proper precautions consist of? In most cases... simply washing one's hands.

By my own observation, I have seen how lax health care providers are about hygiene. Other studies have been undertaken to document how little regard practitioners have for conscientiously keeping their hands sanitized and clean. I'm sure it's a pain in the catoochie to have to wash and sanitize before touching every patient... but... when it can mean the difference between life and death? Seriously.

It might not be a bad idea to bring your own sanitizing liquid into the hospital and insist that each provider use the darn stuff. Tell them Trisha feels it may save your life.

June 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Best Doctors Are Not The Marrying Kind

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Errors in medical diagnosis are often the cause of totally unnecessary medical injuries and deaths. The malpractice frequently lies in what one medical blogger refers to as marrying the diagnosis.

Do not marry the diagnosis!

Faulty information synthesis, which includes a wide range of factors, was the most common cause of cognitive-based errors. The single most common phenomenon was premature closure: the tendency to stop considering other possibilities after reaching a diagnosis.

From DB's Medical Rants

I have observed that the hasty marriages which turn out poorly are almost reckless in their passionate embrace. How else to explain the decision to diagnose and treat the least serious condition and the perseverance in the relationship with the diagnosis when treatment is obviously failing. Marriage needs to be reserved for a relationship between human beings. Doctors should only be permitted to have courtships with diagnoses.

June 21, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The U.S. Supreme Lobbyists

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Corporate America is enjoying the payoff from twice electing George W. Bush President of...well, Corporate America. I haven't seen the President's approval rating within the business community, but it should be soaring well above the 29% level of approval in the nation as a whole.

High court has been good for business

The Bush administration and corporate lobbyists long have sought sweeping "tort reform" to limit lawsuits and massive jury awards -- without much success. But in the last year, they quietly have been winning much of what they've wanted on a case-by-case basis in the Supreme Court.

With a week to go in their term, the justices have handed down a dozen rulings that sharply limit the damages that can be won in lawsuits or make it harder to sue corporations.

"The Roberts court is even better for business" than the court led for two decades by the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, said Washington attorney Maureen E. Mahoney, who is a longtime friend of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and a former clerk for Rehnquist. "There is unquestionably a greater number of business cases before the court, and [the justices] are quite willing to limit damage remedies."

Five of the Supreme Court Justices should be required to register as lobbyists for the business community.

June 17, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Anonymous Physicians Rat Out Drug Company Influence

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Anonymous physicians on the relationship between doctors, hospitals and drug companies:

Are doctors unduly influenced by drug companies?

Dr. Virus: I don't think that doctors make dangerous decisions because of the influence of the drug companies. But I think we make very expensive decisions. There's an antibiotic for $10 and there's an antibiotic for $150. I had dinner last night with the $150 guys, and it might be theoretically marginally better. There might be reasons that I prescribe it, and one might be that I liked my steak dinner. You'll get well either way on the cheap one or the expensive one, but this way I'll have another steak dinner. It's low-level bribery--there's no question about it. I used to go out to dinner with these guys, and I stopped because I found it too gross for words.

Dr. Lung: I used to be in charge of a department, and I told my unit that I'm not going to support big dinners where they take twenty doctors out. If you're friends with one particular rep, then you can go as friends. But I've always felt that they're expecting something in return.

Dr. Heart2: I am wooed. You know, all doctors are wooed. But the true excess is not in the pens and the steak dinners. It's the relationships pharmaceutical companies develop with hospitals that are much more nefarious than buying a doctor a steak dinner. Companies strike deals with hospital pharmacies to provide their drugs at a low cost to get patients using them. Then they price the drug at a later date any which way they want.

Source: New York Best Doctors - A panel of anonymous physicians coughs up secrets of the trade.

June 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drug Reps With Spreadsheets Welcomed By Oncologists

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

In my post yesterday, Oncologists Keep Their Eye On Profits, the question was whether oncologists were uniquely focused on profits among all the medical specialists. PharmaGossip provides more evidence for us to consider. When drug company reps are showing up at oncologists' offices with spreadsheets instead of drug samples and clinical studies it is hard to imagine anything but dollar signs in the heads of these practitioners.

Cancer - Big Pharma's (and oncologists') last gold rush

Industry documents that have emerged in a federal civil lawsuit in Boston show that big pharmaceutical companies sometimes calculated to the penny the profits that doctors could make from their drugs. Sales representatives shared those profit estimates with doctors and their staffs, the documents show.

In one PowerPoint presentation from 2000, a Bristol-Myers Squibb executive told employees that oncologists' biggest concern was "Reimbursement Today, Reimbursement Tomorrow, Reimbursement!"

Dr. Robert Geller, an oncologist who worked in private practice from 1996 to 2005 before leaving to join a biotechnology company, said that cancer doctors knew the profits they could make and in some cases would change treatment regimens or offer unnecessary care to make extra money.

"It's clear that physicians stopped making decisions based on what made scientific or clinical sense in lieu of what made better business sense," Dr. Geller said.

While many of the documents in the lawsuit remain sealed, the exhibits used in the first trial are part of the public record. They show that representatives for the companies brought spreadsheets to oncologists' offices to show doctors how much they could make.

June 12, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Catholic Church Clears Priest Of Molestations - In Secret

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The Roman Catholic Church has perfected the investigation and prosecution of priests accused of molesting minors. After reading this report of the process when government prosecutors are not involved, it is apparent that (1) secret trials conducted by (2) fellow priests and reviewed by (3) Rome is the formula to clear the good name of men of the cloth.

Vatican clears former pastor of sex charges

The Rev. William J. Dowd, a popular Bergen County priest who was accused in 2002 of sexual misconduct with minors, has been cleared by church officials in Rome.

The decision means the 67-year-old Dowd can wear clerical garb, celebrate Mass and represent himself as a Catholic priest for the first time in more than five years.

A panel of three priests found Dowd innocent of the allegations in a 2005 closed-door church trial in Newark. That proceeding then had to be reviewed by the Vatican....

Officials in Rome contacted the archdiocese late last week to say they had affirmed the trial.

Not everyone cheered the news. A victims' advocacy group criticized the church's use of closed-door proceedings.

"Historically, people have been very skeptical of secret church proceedings when clerics are clearing other clerics of crimes against children," said Mark Crawford, co-director of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "More and more often, these proceedings are returning the accused predator priest to ministry."

Dowd never faced criminal charges. The allegations were decades old and, as a result, could not be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.

Church officials have released few details about Dowd's case, saying only that a man from Mississippi initially came forward, followed by a second accuser. Both alleged that Dowd had engaged in sexual misconduct with them while they were minors.

The case was presented initially to an archdiocesan review board - a predominantly lay panel appointed by the church - which determined the accusations warranted further action.

That led to the closed-door trial in 2005, with three priests from outside the archdiocese acting as judges.

Dowd was represented by an attorney versed in church law and the archdiocese assigned a "promoter of justice" to present the case.

"It went through a period of months, with evidence being gathered and a number of people from both sides presenting testimony," [Jim] Goodness [a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese] said. "The decision of the tribunal was that he was not guilty of the allegations."

That decision then was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which reviewed the trial and found it was conducted in accordance with church law.

From NorthJersey.com

June 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Ritalin Use Studied Among Children Of Divorced Parents

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Ritalin has apparently graduated to the company of toxic chemicals and deadly diseases. Studies are being conducted to determine what circumstances and events increase the risk of Ritalin use. What we have here is a legal prescription drug that may have gone over to the dark side.

Divorce Increases Risk Of Ritalin Use

Divorce puts children at higher risk of Ritalin use compared to kids whose parents stay together, says new research by a University of Alberta sociologist, who cautions that this doesn't necessarily mean that divorce is harmful to a child. [But it does imply that Ritalin is dangerous stuff more likely to be provided to a child after a divorce.] The study appears in this week's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Lisa Strohschein found that there is a "significantly higher" risk of Ritalin use - nearly twice as high - for children whose parents divorce compared to children whose parents remain together. It is the first study to follow children over time and evaluate whether experiencing parental divorce increases the risk for subsequent Ritalin use, a drug commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Why did Dr. Strohschein select Ritalin as opposed to, say, aspirin for her study?

She was drawn to look at Ritalin usage because prescriptions to children for Ritalin have skyrocketed over the past two decades, leading to concern over whether it is being appropriately prescribed.

June 07, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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G8 Gathers To Plan Good Deeds

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Rich nations meet again to make themselves feel good.

Don't listen to what the rich world's leaders say - look at what they do

From The Guardian

It is time once again for that touching annual ritual, in which the world's most powerful people move themselves to tears. At Heiligendamm they will emote with the wretched of the earth. They will beat their breasts and say many worthy and necessary things - about climate change, Africa, poverty, trade - but one word will not leave their lips. Power. Amid the patrician goodwill, there will be no acknowledgement that the power they wield over other nations destroys everything they claim to stand for.

The leaders of the G8 nations present themselves as a force for unmitigated good. Sometimes they fail, but they seek only to make the world a kinder place. Bob Geldof and Bono give oxygen to this deception, speaking of the good works the leaders might perform, or of the good works they have failed to perform - but not mentioning the active harm. They refuse to acknowledge that what the rich nations give with one finger they take with both hands.

Rich nations manufacture and market to poor nations products that do far more harm than good. But, hey, it helps the trade balance.

Look at what is happening, right now, in the Philippines. This country has many problems, but one stands out: just 16% of children between four and five months old are exclusively breastfed. This is one of the lowest documented rates on earth, and it has fallen by a third since 1998. As 70% of Filipinos have inadequate access to clean water, the result is a public health disaster. Every year, according to the World Health Organisation, some 16,000 Filipino children die as a result of "inappropriate feeding practices".

These are the deaths caused only by acute results of feeding children with substitutes for breastmilk. A summary of peer-reviewed studies compiled by the campaigning groups Infact and Ibfan suggests that breastfeeding also reduces the incidence of asthma, allergies, childhood cancers, diabetes, coeliac disease, Crohn's, colitis, poor cognitive development, obesity, cardiovascular disease, ear infections and poor dentition. Switching from bottle to breast could prevent 13% of all childhood deaths - a greater impact than any other measure. Panaceas are rare in medicine, but the mammary gland is one.

Both the government of the Philippines and the UN blame the manufacturers of baby formula for much of the decline in breastfeeding. These companies spend over $100m a year on advertising breastmilk substitutes in the Philippines, which equates to more than half the department of health's annual budget. Those who appear most susceptible to this advertising are the poor, who are also the most likely to be using contaminated water to make up the feed. Some spend as much as one third of their household income on formula. Powdered milk now accounts for more sales than any other consumer product in the Philippines. Almost all of it is produced by companies based in the rich nations.

June 07, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is He Really A Pediatrician?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Children do not select their own doctors. Parents normally do that for them, usually by looking for a competent pediatrician. Apparently, the task may have a sizeable margin of error to it.

Up To 17 Percent Of Pediatricians Not Board Certified By ABP

A study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, found that as many as 17 percent of physicians in a single state who claim to be pediatricians on state licensure files have never been board certified as a pediatrician by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). And another 12 percent of physicians who report to be pediatricians did not complete a medical residency training program in pediatrics.

"Residency training in pediatrics and board certification by the American Board of Pediatrics distinguish the physician as having the level of expertise and knowledge to provide the best possible care for your child," says study lead author Gary L. Freed, M.D., MPH, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of the CHEAR Unit at Mott.

He continues, "Our finding that up to 17 percent of those reporting to be pediatricians in a given state are not board certified by the ABP should encourage more parents to find out if their child's physician really has been board certified as a pediatrician, and that he or she has maintained that certification status. Recertification is equally important because medicine is constantly changing, and it is a means to keep physicians up-to-date on the latest medical developments."

June 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Audio Tapes Would Improve Medical Diagnosis

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

You can slice it anyway you want. The conclusion remains the same. The rising number of medical diagnostic errors is related primarily to poor communication skills of the doctor in conversations with the patient.

QUALITY: Are Doctors Asking The Right Questions?

by Rob Cunningham

An M.D. and Harvard professor who writes for the New Yorker, Jerome Groopman is creating a widening public audience for a problem that internists have been worrying themselves about for decades: an apparent decline in physicians' clinical skills, driven at least in part by increasing dependency on high-tech diagnostic tools and financial incentives to see more and more patients.

Much of the evidence comes from studies based on autopsies that reveal morbidities not detected (or treated) in living patients. One such study found major diagnostic errors in 32 percent of patients who died during stays in intensive care. Estimates of the overall rate of diagnostic error fall in the 10-15 percent range.

The bottom line, according to Groopman, is that doctors often don't ask the right questions and don't listen carefully enough when the patient answers.

My suggestion would be to tape-record all physician-patient verbal communications, just as is done "for quality purposes" by many businesses who communicate with customers by telephone. If businesses have discovered the mere fact of a recording tends to improve the communications process why not apply this simple "device" to the medical field. When poor communication skills lead to serious injuries and deaths it would seem a reasonable burden to bear.

June 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Americans Fleeing Major Political Parties

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

America is experiencing MPPAD, (Major Political Party Affiliation Drain). This condition occurs when major political parties exhibit idea atrophy and appear to exist solely to exercise power and to pass out spoils.

Number of Republicans in U.S. Hits New Low, Number of Democrats Also Decline

Source: Rasmussen Reports

For the fourth straight month, the number of people identifying themselves as Republicans has decreased. For the third straight month, the number of people identifying themselves as Democrats has also decreased.

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 15,000 adults in May found that just 30.8% now say they're Republicans. That's down slightly from last month and down more than six percentage points from the GOP peak of 37.3% during Election 2004. The number of Republicans has been falling fairly steadily since the middle of 2005.

However, the survey also found that the number of people identifying themselves as Democrats has fallen to its lowest level in seventeen months (since January 2006). Democrats gained about two percentage points of support during 2006 and peaked at 38.0% in December of last year. Since actually taking control of Congress, Democrats have given back most of those gains. Today, 36.3% say they belong to Nancy Pelosi's party.

From Docuticker

June 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Americans May Have An ED Problem

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I was about to prepare a new post but forgot what the topic was going to be. I may be one of those with an ED problem - no, not the ED featured in the television ads. Easily Distracted is the ED of which I speak.

Test Puts Attention on the Easily Distracted

THURSDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) - Prospective employers may have a new tool to spot people who are too easily distracted while on the job.

Nilli Lavie, a psychology professor at University College London in England says she's developed a method of measuring how easily a person's attention wanders. She says it could be used by employers when hiring workers and could prove especially useful for jobs - such as a bus driver or pilot - where distraction could lead to fatal errors. [I definitely would like advance warning of a pilot who is ED.]

Easily distracted people are more likely to be involved in accidents, noted Lavie.

The computer-based test designed by Lavie measures a person's accuracy and reaction times when exposed to distractions. It was tested on 61 people, and the findings were published in the Association for Psychological Science journal.

Not only did the study find that the test gauges how easily a person is distracted, it also found that all people - easily distracted or not - tend to be far less likely to be distracted when they're doing a difficult task. This is likely because people are so focused on completing a difficult assignment that they have no extra brain capacity for processing distracting information, Lavie said.

Could ED explain why George Bush has been elected twice.

May 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Bone To Pick About Depression

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Now, this is something to be depressed about.

Antidepressant Use May Boost Fracture Risk, From Harvard Women's Health Watch

Evidence is accumulating that depression is a risk factor for osteoporosis, reports the June 2007 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch. A recent study found that people ages 50 and over who regularly took antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) had double the rate of fractures as people not using such medications. Other research points to depression itself as a source of endocrine changes that can damage bone.

Whether the danger comes from depression, the drugs used to treat it, or something else, doctors are paying more attention to this association. During the 1990s, depression began to emerge as a possible cause of bone loss, rather than a result. Scientists studied women who didn't have osteoporosis symptoms or even know they had the condition. They found lower bone mineral density in those who were depressed. Moreover, the link was found in both younger women and women past menopause. Other studies have found a similar relationship, so investigators have been looking at hormones and brain chemicals potentially involved in both depression and bone loss.

Another reason to stop following the daily news.

May 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Tennessee Says "No Thanks" To Malpractice Tort Reform

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Missing a train can be a good thing.

Author of Tenn. Malpractice Bill Now Relieved It Didn't Pass

A Tennessee state representative who helped shepherd a bipartisan effort to limit frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits said he was glad the measure did not pass.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Briley, D-Nashville, said supporters of the medical malpractice bill exaggerated the need for limits on malpractice lawsuits.

"It was premature. It didn't need to pass,'' Briley said during a House floor session. "We didn't need tort reform in this state.''

Briley said he received information last Wednesday from State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co., the state's largest provider of malpractice insurance to doctors, that insurance rates were dropping an average 4.2 percent this year.

He also said there hadn't been an increase in juries awarding large damages to patients nor was the standard of medical care decreasing, as tort reform supporters have indicated.

Unfortunately, many states have boarded the tort reform train. Maybe, after they arrive at a destination where injustice and malpractice thrive, they will ride the train back to justice for the victims of medical misconduct.

May 28, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Corruption Of Science And Medicine...By The NEJM?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Notes From Dr. RW we are told that discussions of science are corrupted when played out in the arena of public debate.

Tabloid based medicine trumps evidence based medicine

Mere moments following NEJM's release of the Avandia meta-analysis and editorial there were millions of Google search queries for Avandia according to a recent post from Clinical Cases and Images. Malpractice attorney ads began appearing only hours later. Hype spreads more rapidly than nuanced critical analysis. So, long before defects in the paper had a chance to be exposed, the popular media, consumer activists and the trial lawyers had taken over the debate. Within hours Avandia was the new Vioxx. More recently we have learned that the ongoing prospective RECORD trial, designed to look at macrovascular outcomes in patients taking Avandia, is in jeopardy (hat tip to Kevin M.D.) due to patients dropping out as a result of the publicity. Something's terribly wrong with this picture.

Some are accusing NEJM as being like a tabloid and PharmaGossip proposes a new cover style. Is NEJM deserving of the tabloid label? In my considered opinion, yes, for two reasons. First, the journal could have published a more critical, less inflammatory editorial. Even worse was the journal's decision for early open access release of the paper and editorial. Such a tactic might be appropriate for a public health emergency such as the SARS outbreak. This is not SARS. This is not a public health emergency.

Clearly tabloid based medicine has trumped evidence based medicine and done much harm. I have repeatedly argued that discussions of science are corrupted when played out in the arena of public debate. The Avandia controversy is a case in point.

Dr. RW has a valid point. I am sick and tired of all this gibberish about medicine clogging up the media. What this country needs is a separation of scientific discourse (including medicine) from the public. What possible good comes from public awareness and discussion of scientific matters? We should ban any scientific thought and discourse by anyone without a Dr. before his name. And, a similar ban should be applied to legal thought and communications. Ditto, in the areas of military matters and our government. Our lives would be so much better without all the corruption to medicine, science, law, military and government.

May 24, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Data-Mining For Greater Drug Profits

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Data-mining in medical prescriptions surfaces in many ways, not all good.

Seattle pediatrician Rupin Thakkar's first inkling that the pharmaceutical industry was peering over his shoulder and into his prescription pad came in a letter from a drug representative about the generic drops Thakkar prescribes to treat infectious pinkeye.

In the letter, the salesperson wrote that Thakkar was causing his patients to miss more days of school than they would if he put them on Vigamox, a more expensive brand-name medicine made by Alcon Laboratories.

"My initial thought was 'How does she know what I'm prescribing?' " Thakkar said. "It feels intrusive. . . . I just feel strongly that medical encounters need to be private."

This is the reaction of one physician cited in a recent Washington Post article.

Doctors, Legislators Resist Drugmakers' Prying Eyes

"We don't like the practice, and we want it to stop," said Jean Silver-Isenstadt, executive director of the National Physicians Alliance, a two-year-old group with 10,000 members, most of them young doctors in training. (Thakkar is on the group's board of directors.) "We think it's a contaminant to the doctor-patient relationship, and it's driving up costs."

The American Medical Association, a larger and far more established group, makes millions of dollars each year by helping data-mining companies link prescribing data to individual physicians. It does so by licensing access to the AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors.

After complaints from some members, the AMA last year began allowing doctors to "opt out" and shield their individual prescribing information from salespeople, although drug companies can still get it. So far, 7,476 doctors have opted out, AMA officials said.

Since at least the early 1990s, drug companies have used the data to identify doctors who write the most prescriptions and go after them the way publishers court people who subscribe to lots of magazines. They zero in on physicians who prescribe a competitors' drug and target them with campaigns touting their own products. Salespeople chart the changes in a doctor's prescribing patterns to see whether their visits and offers of free meals and gifts are having the desired effect.

"It's a key weapon in determining how we want to tailor our sales pitch," said Shahram Ahari, a former drug detailer for Eli Lilly who is now a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco's School of Pharmacy. "The programs give them [doctors] a score of 1 to 10 based on how much they write. Once we have that, we know who our primary targets are. We focus our time on the big [prescription] writers -- the 10s, the 9s, and then less so on the 8s and 7s. . . . We're dealing with individual physicians who might give us the biggest dividend for our investment."

Why don't we just allow doctors to be drug company employees who can push pills to patients in a more efficient and profitable way? Each employee doctor could supply the employer drug companies with much more complete patient information than is presently gathered at great expense by data-mining.

May 21, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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In Maine, Multi-tasking Drivers Must Be Of A Certain Age

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Driving an automobile while talking on a cellphone, playing a video game or adjusting a portable MP3 player apparently are dangerous activities for teenagers but not for adults in Maine.

Maine Bill to Ban Teen Drivers' Cell Phone Use Advances

A bill to ban teen drivers in Maine from using cell phones and other electronic devices has won unanimous approval from a legislative committee.

The original bill was supposed to ban the use of hand-held cell phones by minor drivers, but it was amended during a work session last week to include other electronic devices like video games and portable MP3 players like the Apple iPod.

"They broadened that (bill) to look at all causes of distractions,'' said Jon Clark, deputy director of the state's Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, who advised the Transportation Committee on the issue.

The amended proposal, which was approved by the Transportation Committee, would expand current law, which bans drivers under 18 with an intermediate license from using a cell phone for the first 180 days.

A separate bill to ban the use of hand-held cell phones by all drivers, including adults, was rejected 11-2 by the committee.

Mature drivers (with years of experience eating fast food, disciplining backseat children, inserting CD's and folding maps while driving) obviously can handle the new electronic devices while commuting on major highways.

May 17, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Hook, Line And Sinker Rules Should Be Applied To The Loyal Bushies

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

What can we learn from a fishing tournament that may guide us in dealing with those in the Bush Administration who have been lying and misleading us for over six years? Let's visit Missouri where they apparently don't have much use for liars and cheaters.

Angler blackballed after cheating scandal

Poplar Bluff -- An avid angler accused of cheating in a bass fishing tournament last month is finding that fellow fishermen aren't forgiving his transgression.

Gary Lee Jones, 60, of Poplar Bluff, faces a felony count of theft by deception. Just as painfully, perhaps, he faces the ire of his fishermen friends.

"What he did, he did to every fisherman. It's like a brotherhood," said Skeeter Law, owner of a boat shop frequented by Jones. "He's done lost any kind of trust that he had."

Those who know Jones say he was good enough to compete in tournaments.

Fishing is a serious part of life around Lake Wappapello, about 150 miles south of St. Louis.

Competitive fishing -- a race to see who brings in the greatest total weight of fish -- brings big cash prizes.

Cheating isn't new to the sport. Fishermen have been caught using frozen fish, fish hidden in secret compartments, fish tied to hidden lines.

Tournaments use lie detectors to ask winners whether their catches were made that day. Jones passed a lie-detector test at a competition two years ago after placing second. There were rumors he cheated, but his friends stood up for him, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Last month, a fisherman and his son told police they had seen Jones on the lake on April 28, the day before the 2007 Angler's Choice/Bass Quest Tournament.

Jones spent his time next to a floating duck blind, raising officers' suspicions.

State conservation agent Mic Plunkett and a state water patrol officer found two live bass with red nylon cords looped through their mouths and tied to the duck blind, Plunkett said. They marked the fish by punching a tiny hole in one fin on each bass.

The next day, as 38 boats pushed off into Lake Wappapello, Jones headed for the duck blind cove in his boat and waited until the other competitors had cleared out, authorities said.

Plunkett and a water patrol officer, dressed in camouflage, waited on shore about 60 feet away. Plunkett lay behind a log with a video camera -- also camouflaged -- poking over the top.

They watched as Jones reached into the water, pulled up the bass, cut the line and placed the fish in his boat's aerated holding tank, according to Plunkett.

At the official weigh-in that afternoon, Jones turned in four bass for a total of 11.55 pounds -- to win second place. He also had a single five-pound fish to take third in the Biggest Bass category. Jones was awarded a silver trophy plaque and his check for $886. Organizers snapped his photo while authorities inspected Jones' catch. They found the marked fish.

As Jones accepted congratulations, he was placed under arrest. Word of the undercover operation quickly spilled through the crowd. Applause broke out. Several fishermen shook the officers' hands.

"I've never had that large of a crowd be that enthusiastic about someone getting arrested," said Jeff Johnson of the water patrol. "That was something different."Jones goes on trial July 17, and faces two to seven years in prison.

February 23, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Overlawyered And Tort Deform Are Cleaning My Clock

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Readership, viewership, page views, rankings - these matters keep my greedy body awake at nights. I mean, the competition is tough out there in the blogosphere. My crack team of internet professionals estimate that on any given day an average of 2 people come to my blog. (I believe one of those is me.) The average visit lasts 26 seconds. I am being told any chance for a book deal or made-for-TV movie is out the window at stats like this.

My ultimate goal for Greedy Trial Lawyer is to morph into an entire product line of action figures and shiny men's suits. Why am I sharing this with you today? Well, apparently, some other legal blogs are likely to get to the cash register before me unless I ramp up my numbers pretty quickly.

These numbers for Tort Deform and Overlawyered blow my mind:

Blog Traffic & Hubris: Tort Deform v. Overlawyered

The question of blog traffic is always an interesting one.

How much does your traffic reflect the importance of your discussion or the level of support for your point of view? Perhaps, not at all.

In any event, it's often hard to gauge how much traffic a blog actually has, and I believe that discussion of other blogs' traffic isn't really at the core of the worth of each side's arguments.

Interestingly, Overlawyered.com, our primary tort "reform" counterpart in the blogosphere, has criticized Tort Deform as "unimportant" because, as they saw it, we have a modest readership.

While I say again that I don't believe readership is directly linked to the worth of a viewpoint, given the fact that Overlawyered.com has attacked this site on account of its perception of our readership, and in light of the fact that Overlawyered.com recently made a post praising its own readership, a comparison is in order.

Last month, during its fourth full month in existence, Tort Deform had 127,349 page views.

According to Overlawyered's post on its estimate of its page views it is currently at about 2 million each year. Two million page views a year puts Overlawyered's monthly page views at 166,666. That number puts the current readership of Tort Deform at 76.4% of Overlawyered's.

These guys are ahead of Rush Limbaugh while I am below Mother Teresa.

February 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Patient Warning - Confusing Array Of Complaints Frustrates Doctors

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I am not sure why this 8 year old medical journal article regarding signs that point to nonorganic back pain is making the rounds on blogs this month. I doubt that nonorganic back pain complaints are suddenly increasing.

Is it malingering, or is it 'real'?

Eight signs that point to nonorganic back pain - P. Douglas Kiester, MD; Alexandra D. Duke, DO - VOL 106 / NO 7 / DECEMBER 1999 / POSTGRADUATE MEDICINE

In any event, in the interest of fairness to patients who are reporting any back pain to a doctor I thought a link directly to the source was appropriate.

This is the preview of the article:

Have you ever become frustrated while caring for patients who present with a confusing array of musculoskeletal complaints and other signs of illness? When routine evaluation does not suggest a diagnosis and you begin to suspect it's "all in their head," how do you identify the underlying cause? And what is the best tack to take when dealing with such patients? Thanks to research by Waddell and colleagues, there is a way to distinguish between physical and behavioral causes. Drs Kiester and Duke explain the eight Waddell signs for identifying nonorganic back pain and offer a practical approach to patient management.

I guess the trick is to avoid frustrating your doctor? Patients with back pain should lead the doctor directly to the underlying cause before the yellow malingering light goes on. Never pull out a confusing array for him to consider.

February 09, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bottom Line Of Tort Reform Not A Plus

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Legal blogger, Bob Kraft, cuts to the bottom line of Tort Reform.

The False Choice: Doctors Or Accountability

The consumer group Texas Watch has produced an excellent article on tort reform in Texas, and specifically about the recent constitutional amendment that essentially took away the rights of Texans to sue medical providers for meaningful damages. The article is titled The False Choice: Doctors or Accountability, The Real Impact of So-Called Tort "Reform" in Texas.

The bottom line, as so many of us tried to warn consumers before the election, is that medical care is no more available now than before "reform," insurance premiums have not decreased significantly, and medical malpractice victims are now barred from recovering full damages in court. The only beneficiaries of Tort Reform are the big insurance companies.

Does anyone believe that the insurance industry worked so hard to restrict the rights of the wrongfully injured in order to make medical care more available and to reduce insurance company profits?

The drumbeat for Tort Reform has been well-orchestrated and financed by an industry that makes its money by denying or reducing claims. Insurance companies could do that the old fashioned way, by defeating each claim in the courthouse, or they could effectively bar the courthouse door.

February 01, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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FDA Announces Brand New Focus

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

There is shock and awe in Washington, and it is not in the Pentagon. It is the reaction to the Food & Drug Administration's announcement of a comprehensive commitment to the safety of drugs and other medical products.

FDA ANNOUNCES PLAN TO IMPROVE DRUG SAFETY

The FDA has outlined a comprehensive commitment to the safety of drugs and other medical products. The FDA report, which also responds to recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), details a series of initial steps that aim to ensure that FDA's safety programs are the best possible.

The FDA plans to take action in three key areas:

*Strengthening the science that supports the FDA's drug safety system from premarket testing through postmarket surveillance;

*Improving communication and information flow; and

*Reorganizing operations to improve the review, analysis and consultation related to safety.

Wow! These people mean business - I mean, safety.

January 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Missing Hospital Records, No Independent Autopsy Equal $30 Million Verdict

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Was it a natural cause or an accidental overdose of painkillers that killed the hospital patient within a day after his joint-replacement surgery? Hint: the hospital says it lost some of the patient's records.

Coroners urged to investigate more patient deaths

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The 2002 death of a man after joint-replacement surgery - and the $30 million verdict against Lexington Medical Center that followed - has prompted some to call for more in-depth investigations into patient deaths at South Carolina hospitals. A jury found that the hospital and an anesthesiologist were responsible for the death of Dr. Asif Sheikh, 58, who died less than a day after double knee-replacement surgery at the hospital.

At trial, Sheikh's lawyer Geoffrey Fieger argued that his client died from an accidental overdose of painkillers that the hospital tried to cover up. The hospital, which acknowledged it had lost some of Sheikh's records, is appealing.

States differ on their policies of notifying coroners and medical examiners after questionable hospital deaths, said Dr. Joseph Prahlow, an Indiana pathologist and president of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

January 27, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Pharma & Lawyers In Race To Bottom With Wall-to-Wall TV Commercials

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The legal profession has experienced a drop in public esteem for a number of years. More recently drug manufacturers have suffered the safe fate. There is a common denominator - advertising on mass media. PharmaGossip has the details.

Big Pharma's reputation - how low can it go?

Pharmaceutical firms need to make some drastic changes to the way they do business if they are to regain the public's trust and must be seen to be more interested in medicines than market share to avoid even more damage to their image, a leading industry observer has told PharmaTimes World News.

Peter Claude, a USA-based partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers pharmaceutical and life sciences advisory services group, was speaking as the firm published a report, Recapturing the Vision which highlights the significant differences between the public's view of pharmaceutical companies and the industry's self perception.

Mr. Claude said that "it is difficult to comprehend how an industry that has saved so many lives should be held in such low public esteem," noting that "in the current climate of distrust, the public is questioning the industry's motives and practices from sales and marketing to pricing to drug development."

DTC [direct-to-consumer] advertising needs to be more serious and scientific. A change needs to be made in the way sales and marketing practices are carried out and the industry has focused for too long on the doctor rather than the patient.

This change can be achieved in a number of ways, Mr Claude explained, one of which is to improve the quality of direct-to-consumer advertising on TV and focusing on the serious scientific benefits of the drug.

The legal profession should read Recapturing the Vision before it drops below child molesters in the eyes of the public it is pounding with inane commercials.

January 15, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Canaries Are Dying In Canadian Hospitals

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Would you agree that nurses would probably be the most knowledgeable folks about the frequency of serious medical errors in hospitals? It seems to me they would be at the ground floor level throughout hospitals and most aware of the mistakes that are occurring.

Well, 74% of Canadian nurses think it is likely a patient will experience a serious medical error in a hospital. Yes, that is three-quarters of them.

Canadians afraid of medical errors and environmental factors affecting health

A new poll suggests most Canadians believe a serious medical error might occur at a Canadian hospital.

The poll reveals 60 per cent of Canadians fear an error may be made while undergoing medical treatment.

Sixty per cent of public, 40 per cent of doctors, 62 per cent of pharmacists, 74 per cent of nurses, and 77 per cent of managers think it is likely that someone might be subjected to a serious medical error while in a Canadian hospital.

If 74% of the canaries in coal mines flopped over dead who would be willing to walk into mines? Maybe that's why they no longer use the canaries. But, we can't do without the nurses. (Of course, if they are responsible for most of the errors, we should ban a few.)

January 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Hoax Of Medical Malpractice Crisis Exposed

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

When you name your report The Great Medical Malpractice Hoax you had better have the facts to back it up. Public Citizen has done its homework well. Cyrus Dugger at TortDeform provides this summary:

Public Citizen: Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Not the Cause of Health Care "Crisis," Public Citizen Report Shows

Despite claims by business and medical lobbying interests and the Bush administration, there is no medical malpractice lawsuit crisis in America, according to analysis released today by Public Citizen. The new report, "The Great Medical Malpractice Hoax," dispels oft-repeated myths of dwindling doctors and spiraling insurance premiums used to support limits on the ability of injured patients to seek redress in the courts.

The real problems are a lack of attention to patient safety, the high incidence of preventable medical error and the lack of accountability for a small set of doctors who account for a majority of medical malpractice payments, the report reveals. The report also presents several recommendations for Congress, state governments and hospitals to reduce health care costs and save lives.

"Over the past few years, the Republican-led Congress has repeatedly attempted to curtail the legal rights of medical malpractice victims by capping damage awards and imposing other limits on access to the courts by consumers," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "This report shows that lawmakers were misguided; in fact, Congress should work to reduce medical errors."

You can read the full Public Citizen Report and decide just how misguided the tort reformers have been.

January 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Medicare Drug Prices Soar Above VA Drug Prices

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Shirl Kennedy, at Docuticker, provides an excerpt from a report explaining why the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress did not want the government to have the ability to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers in the new Medicare Drug Benefit.

No Bargain: Medicare Drug Plans Deliver High Prices

Medicare drug plan prices for the top drugs prescribed to seniors are 58 percent higher than the same drugs provided to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to a report released today.

The new report, issued by the consumer health organization Families USA, was released shortly before the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a bill to end the current prohibition preventing Medicare from bargaining for cheaper drug prices. The bill is a top priority for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her new Democratic majority.

For the top 20 drugs prescribed to seniors, the report examined prices charged by the VA compared to the prices charged by the five companies with the largest enrollment in the Medicare (Part D) drug program. Those companies, UnitedHealthcare/PacifiCare, Humana, Wellpoint, Member Health, and WellCare, enrolled almost two-thirds (65 percent) of the Medicare beneficiaries participating in Part D during 2006.

According to the report, the prices charged by plans sponsored by the five companies are 50-75 percent higher than the VA price for Celebrex; 51-82 percent higher for Lipitor (10 mg); 69-95 percent higher for Nexium; 205-261 percent higher for Fosamax; 435-522 percent higher for Protonix; and 1,066-1,229 percent higher for Zocor (20 mg).

I am having trouble even calculating what the Zocor overpricing means.

January 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Smoking And Global Warming Are Good For You

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

From Politics In The Zeros comes word that tobacco-disinformation tactics and operatives have found a new home.

ExxonMobil's tobacco-like disinformation campaign on global warming

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists offers the most comprehensive documentation to date of how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry's disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue.

I had thought all of the disinformation specialists had moved to the Bush Administration. Maybe they are jumping ship.

January 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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States Give Corporate America Greater Profits By Giving Us Fewer Rights

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Nathan Newman, at TPM Cafe, details how Corporate America went state to state to accomplish much of its "tort reform" agenda. The accomplishments are enough to light your hair on fire. And, the result - greater profits - was predictable.

Shutting the Courtroom Door: How the Corporate Right Mobilized in the States

The only thing that has changed in the wake of "tort reform" are escalating corporate profits at the expense of consumer and workers' pocketbooks -- a triumph of using lobbying power to rob from working families to benefit the wealthy. And this was done nearly solely with changes in state policy-- highlighting why state politics matters so much for large areas of social justice.

Soon all courtrooms and court systems will be operated by state Chambers of Commerce.

December 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Nanny-State" Takes On "Big-Fannies"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Walter Olson at Overlawyered fires his shot at what he calls the nanny-state in the United Kingdom.

Nanny-state watch: warning labels on larger-size clothes?

The British Medical Journal, already well established as a source of policy recommendations noxious to individual liberty, is at it again:

Clothes made in larger sizes should carry a tag with an obesity helpline number, health specialists have suggested. Sweets and snacks should not be permitted near checkouts, new roads should not be built unless they include cycle lanes and food likely to make people fat should be taxed, they say in a checklist of what we might "reasonably do" to deal with obesity.

(Nigel Hawkes, "Larger-size clothes should come with warning to lose weight, say experts", Times Online (UK), Dec. 15).

The report referenced by Walter was put together by Laurence Gruer, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, and Sir George, who is emeritus professor of medicine at Newcastle University. The recommendation regarding clothing is actually Printing helpline numbers for advice with all clothes sold with a waist of more than 40in for men and 37in for boys, women's garments with a waist of more than 35in or size 16 or above, and more than 31in for girls.

British citizens live in a society which provides a universal health care plan that must deal with the many diseases associated with obesity. In the United States, where our continued reverence for individual liberty has resulted in over 40 million uninsured citizens and the most costly health care system in the world, we look at obesity and its causes as just a "living big" lifestyle choice. Walter apparently feels freedom-loving Americans would be repulsed by an effort by our government to inform its obese citizens of available help for a condition that is killing them and costing the rest of us billions of dollars a year.

Next week, Walter may be putting the spotlight on those ridiculous warnings on cigarette packs, the overly wordy package inserts provided with prescription drugs, the stupid warning labels about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the nagging "buckle up" buzzer in our automobiles, the nutritional information on food product packaging, the flame-retardant effort in children's sleepware, the choking hazard labeling of children's toys, the annual flu-vaccine programs and the child immunization vaccines.

Thank God, someone is going to crusade against the Made In China labels. [Talk about the ultimate nanny-state infringement upon individual liberty.]

December 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Circle Of Life - Big Pharma Version

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The circle has been completed by Big Pharma. Massive marketing campaigns now cause far greater use of a drug than would be warranted from a purely medical standpoint. As a result, more complications are occurring. Some of the complications are the very ones the drugs were designed to avoid.

From Pharma Watch comes the success story of the Cox-2 inhibitors.

More ulcers seen after Cox-2 inhibitors launched

The whole point of introducing COX-2 inhibitors was to prevent the nasty GI side effects of NSAIDS. The net effect however, has been to increase the number of ulcer and GI bleeding problems. This is because all the hype over Celebrex (and Vioxx) has persuaded doctors to use them in a lot more people - including people who they might not have used an NSAID.

In other words, we spend billions on Celebrex etc, and end up with more ulcers, not less. Good on you Pfizer, you've done it again.

December 08, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Nurses May Be Their Own Worst Enemy

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Wow!! I just read what amounts to a scathing indictment of the nursing profession and its leadership. It is posted at Universal Health. You may need to wear protective clothing to approach this "bedside."

Nurses: Prostituting for the Healthcare System Pimp

Nurses, who by social contract, are supposed to serve as patients' advocates, have prostituted themselves for the health care system pimp. As long as nurses continue to be violent toward fellow nurses, the public will continue to pay with its health.

December 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Bible Made Me Use It

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Does this research mean marijuana use will be increasing among smoking Christian fundamentalists?

Weed Enhances Fertility of Tobacco Inhibited Sperm

A reproductive medicine specialist at the University at Buffalo has shown that a new compound may improve the fertility of tobacco smokers who have low sperm count and low percentage sperm motility.

The sperm from male smokers were washed with a synthetic (cannabinoid) chemical called AM-1346. After incubation, there was a doubling in the fertilizing capacity of sperm from poor quality semen, results showed.

"Human sperm carry the cholinergic receptor, which responds to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine," noted Burkman. "Nicotine mimics acetylcholine and binds to the cholinergic receptor." In earlier research, Burkman and colleagues also showed that human sperm contain cannabinoid receptors, which respond to marijuana, as well as natural cannabinoids occurring in the body.

Lani Burkman, Ph.D., and colleagues presented the findings at the 2006 meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine held recently in New Orleans.

"Based on our previous data and published literature, it is clear that most tobacco smokers will exhibit a small or a significant decline in fertility," she stated. "Nicotine addiction is quite powerful. The best solution is to stop smoking and then wean yourself off of all nicotine products. But for smokers who can't quit, the in vitro use of AM-1346 may significantly improve their fertilizing capacity."

I can see the full page ads: No Sperm Left Behind. Or, Give Your Sperm A Fighting Chance.

December 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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It's The Building That Is Causing Medical Errors

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Guess which workplace is worried about hospital-acquired infections, medical errors and operational failures? Hint: many of the employees wear white uniforms and carry stethoscopes.

The Role of the Physical Environment in Promoting Health, Safety, and Effectiveness in the Healthcare Workplace

There is an urgent need to address the inherent problems in the healthcare workplace that lead to staff injuries and hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, operational failures, and wastage. The physical environment plays an important role in improving the health and safety for staff, increasing effectiveness in providing care, reducing errors, and increasing job satisfaction.

These improved outcomes may, in turn, help in reducing staff turnover and increase retention -- two key factors related to providing quality care in hospitals. However, it has become increasingly clear that efforts to improve the physical environment alone are not likely to help an organization achieve its goals without a complementary shift in work culture and work practices.

Source: The Center for Health Design

Bottom Line: (1) injured and unhappy hospital employees cause many of the medical errors experienced by patients and (2) hospital employees get the same poor care when they become patients. Conclusion: It's the building, stupid!

December 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Blue-Ribbon Bucks Fund "Get Government Off Our Back" Committee

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Sometimes blue-ribbon committees have special blue-ribbon funders. The Tortellini tells us about one this week.

Following the blue-ribbon money

New York Times columnist Floyd Norris has a great post on his blog about the money behind the blue-ribbon Committee on Capital Markets Regulation that's pushing to relax corporate governance regulations. Turns out that the panel's biggest funder is none other than Hank Greenberg, the former and longtime CEO of the world's largest liability insurer, AIG.

December 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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I Nominate Perry Mason For Sainthood

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Thank God for Perry Mason.

Michael Asimow on Our Enduring Faith in the Adversarial System

Michael Asimow, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, has published "Popular Culture and the Adversarial System" in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review for 2007. [From the abstract.]

This article addresses a puzzle: lawyers are the most distrusted and despised of all American professions, whereas the public has a much higher opinion of judges. Yet Americans believe strongly in the adversary system in which all the important procedural decisions during civil or criminal trials are made by lawyers....

However, the article suggests another possible reason: the influence of popular cultural portrayals of the trial process. Dating back to the days of history's greatest teacher of trial tactics - Perry Mason - media consumers have been taught that the adversary system delivers the truth. We can count on a great lawyer's cross-examination to reveal the identity of the real killer. Even though we hate and distrust lawyers, we want a good one by our side when we're in trouble or an aggressive one prosecuting the crooks. Countless films and television shows since Perry Mason's day have conveyed the same basic message, although in more sophisticated form.

November 29, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Hypocrisy - Another Name For Lie?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The topic today is hypocrisy. Ted Frank apparently sees less hypocrisy in the world than I do. When you are Greedy Trial Lawyer by choice you tend to wish others would be equally straight-forward. Maybe we all need to select one or two adjectives to place before or after our names.

Mike at Crime & Federalism picks up the story. Go for it, Mike.

What is Hypocrisy?

Ted Frank, blogging at Overlawyered, has an interesting post on hypocrisy. Check it out.

My take: I'm suspicious of a person whose words and actions are incongruent. If a person claims to be a tort reformer, but himself files frivolous lawsuits, then I wonder if the person really supports tort reform. So while the person might not be a hypocrite, his actions would make me wonder what ulterior motive he has for "supporting" tort reform.

A person's words and deeds should generally overlap.

So while I'm not sure it's appropriate to call an alleged tort reformer who files lawsuits a hypocrite, it is appropriate to question that person's motives for "supporting" tort reform. If a person really cared about fixing a problem, why would he work to make the same problem worse?

The answer, of course, is this: Most politicians "support" tort reform because they have been paid off by big companies. Most politicians who "support" the poor do so to get elected - and thus accumulate personal power. When a person cannot obtain more power with the tort-reform or support-the-poor gig, then he will find another way to serve his interests.

To that last paragraph I say, Amen, Brother!

November 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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We Deserve Better Than Medical Tourism

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Is there anyone out there who doubts that high medical costs and pathetic health insurance coverage in America need immediate attention? When foreign countries are advertising medical tourism as the alternative to our broken healthcare system have we not sunk below absurd.

Medical tourism: India is 'nation of choice' for medical tourists

Medical tourism: India is 'nation of choice' for medical tourists: "India's minister for tourism and culture, Smt Ambika Soni, has highlighted the need for the country to promote itself as the emerging medical value travel destination for overseas patients.

Speaking at the launch of the new Incredible India brochure on Medical Tourism, Smt Soni said that both private and public hospitals needed to combine their efforts in order to promote the country as the medical destination of choice and to assure tourists of the best quality treatment at competitive costs.

I'm thinking educational tourism can't be far behind.

November 14, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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High-Speed Police Pursuits Should Be Limited To Video Games

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

You can call them police chases. You can call them police pursuits. You can even call them high-speed pursuits. What we should do is call them off.

Head-on crash victim files suit against city of Oakland

OAKLAND -- Patricia Messner's memory of her head-on collision is sketchy, but she remembers a big bang.

Messner, who said she has just begun walking again with help from a cane, sued the city of Oakland and the police department Oct. 6, claiming that police "caused the colliding vehicle to be traveling the wrong way on the interstate, with no headlights, at a recklessly high rate of speed."

Messner's suit highlights the dangers and thorny legal issues that arise when a police chase results in injury or death. California law essentially grants immunity to law enforcement agencies and cities from lawsuits filed when bystanders killed or injured during high-speed pursuits.

Messner is one of thousands injured in police pursuits throughout the state. Last year, law enforcement was involved in 7,942 pursuits that resulted in more than 1,200 people getting injured and 32 killed from collisions, the California Highway Patrol reported.

California leads the nation almost every year in injuries and deaths incurred as a result of police pursuits, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2004, the last year statistics were available, only Texas recorded more fatalities.

November 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bring Your Checkbook When Applying For A Federal Judgeship

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The checklist for judicial appointments during the Bush Administration probably gives bonus points for political contributions to Republicans or to the President himself.

Money trails lead to Bush judges

A four-month investigation reveals that dozens of federal judges gave contributions to President Bush and top Republicans who helped place them on the bench.

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

From Salon.com

November 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Rule Of 9 Is The Only Sensible Way To Go

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The punitive damage tobacco case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week has brought us a mystical connection between acceptable punitive damages and the number 9. An L.A. Times editorial is wild-eyed over the size of the $79.5 Million punitive award and appears to support a cap on punitives of 9 times compensatory damages. To the Times the cap would be a good general rule that makes sense.

While we are at it, I believe the salaries and bonuses of corporate officers should be capped at 9 times the company's average employee. And, the charges for newspaper ads should be capped at 9 times the cost of the Sunday edition. Now, we are making some sense. The world is so much more sensible if we use the "rule of 9."

Torts gone wild

WHEN LAWYERS say, "hard cases make bad law," what they often mean is that a sympathetic plaintiff or an unattractive defendant can induce judges to depart from a general rule that makes sense. The U.S. Supreme Court should resist that temptation in ruling on an Oregon jury's decision to order a tobacco company to pay $79.5 million in punitive damages in a case involving a lifelong smoker who died of lung cancer.

In a landmark 2003 ruling, the justices suggested that punitive damages should be capped at nine times the amount of actual damages.

Has anyone else noticed the fact that there happen to be 9 Supreme Court Justices?

October 31, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Nursing Home Mistakes May Kill Us All

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

When you only learn about less than 1 out of every 20 errors made by the staff you are supervising should you call yourself a supervisor? In fact, why shouldn't you be fired?

Mistakes In Nursing Homes Often Not Brought To Light, USA

The issue of nursing home quality is getting more attention as baby boomers age. It is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that 35 percent of the total population will be older than 65 by 2020. A recent study by a University of Missouri-Columbia nursing researcher found that a shift in attitude is needed to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.

According to the study, preventable errors in the healthcare system are the eighth most common cause of death. The study suggests that medication errors could be a large part of the problem. In nursing homes, administering medicine is viewed as a routine task. However, because most nursing home residents are frail and elderly, even minor medication discrepancies can have very negative outcomes, according to Jill Scott-Cawiezell, assistant professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

In broaching the subject of medication errors and ways to correct them during the study, Scott-Cawiezell said she was surprised by her experiences working with 'front-line staff' who often faced so many demands and were so stressed they didn't even want to know about their mistakes. Her study suggests that nursing home leaders are aware of fewer than 5 percent of the errors in the system, but that staff members are aware of all of them.

October 28, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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More Nurses Good; Less Nurses Bad

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Some studies merely confirm what any rational person would have thought in the first place.

Link Between Nurse Numbers And Patient Mortality

Patients staying in hospitals where there are fewer nurses on the wards are more likely to die or experience complications, according to a major new study launched at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The independent study - the first of its kind in the UK - mirrors the findings of US research by establishing a direct link between the number of nurses working on wards and patients' chances of recovery and survival. The research also finds that nurses working on wards where nurse to patient ratio are lower are much more likely to experience "burn out."

October 24, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Goodbye To "Stay The Course" And "Cut And Run"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Now that Stay the Course has been retired by the White House because it is, supposedly, not an accurate expression of the complexity of what the Administration has been doing in Iraq, I propose the White House also retire Cut and Run. I humbly suggest the latter is not an accurate expression of the complexity of what those who urge withdrawal of American military forces have been proposing.

This would go a long way toward ending public "debate" over the war in Iraq by slogans. I know slogans are useful shorthand in political campaigns and elsewhere. But, there is something pathetic and tragic about using them to discuss an ongoing military conflict.

October 21, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Praise The Lord And Pass The Perks

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I must have been taking a long nap because I missed an editorial in the New York Times almost a week ago.

Faith-Based Profits

Mary Rosati, a novice training to be a nun in Toledo, Ohio, says that after she received a diagnosis of breast cancer, her mother superior dismissed her. If Ms. Rosati had a nonreligious job, she might have won a lawsuit against her diocese (which denies the charge). But a federal judge dismissed her suit under the Americans With Disabilities Act, declining to second-guess the church's "ecclesiastical decision."

I do not have the hesitancy of a federal judge about second-guessing the church's "ecclesiastical decision." At the pit of my greedy stomach I feel the decision is unworthy of the Catholic Church.

The editorial continued with other perks that we provide for organizations which claim to do God's work.

Ms. Rosati's story is one of many that Diana Henriques told in a recent Times series examining the fast-changing legal status of churches and religious-affiliated institutions. The series showed that the wall between church and state is being replaced by a platform that raises religious organizations to a higher legal plane than their secular counterparts.

Day care centers with religious affiliations are exempted in some states from licensing requirements. Churches can expand in ways that would violate zoning ordinances if a nonreligious builder did the same thing, and they are permitted, in some localities, to operate lavish facilities, like state-of-the-art gyms, without paying property taxes.

In its expanded form, this principle amounts to an enormous subsidy for religion, in some cases violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. It also undermines core American values, like the right to be free from job discrimination. It puts secular entrepreneurs at an unfair competitive disadvantage. And it deprives states and localities of much-needed tax revenues, putting a heavier burden on ordinary taxpayers.

After Texas exempted religious day care centers and drug-treatment programs from state licensing, a study found that the "alternatively accredited" facilities had 10 times the rate of abuse and neglect of the others, and several were investigated. In 2001, the Texas Legislature, no enemy of organized religion, did the right thing and ended the exemption.

I do not recall God saying we should treat those who choose to do his work better than those who do the other work required in our society. Maybe I should be Brother Greedy Trial Lawyer.

October 20, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Mold To Become State Flower If Crist Becomes Florida's Governor

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Mold has been injected into a political race in Florida in a most ironic way. Thanks to The Tortellini for bringing this item to our attention.

A Moldy Campaign?

For years, big business has linked arms with Republicans to tar Democrats as beholden to trial lawyers and enemies of personal responsibility for their opposition to tort reform. But what happens in a race where the trial lawyer candidate is a Republican? [How can a trial lawyer be a Republican?]

That's the scenario facing Florida Republicans right now. Business groups that spent eight years winning a host of restrictions on lawsuits under Jeb Bush are in a bit of a tizzy after state Republicans nominated Rep. Jeff Kottkamp as their candidate for lieutenant governor. Not only was Kottkamp the only Republican house member to vote against tort reform last year, but he's also a plaintiff in the kind of lawsuit that makes tort reformers apoplectic.

A few years ago, Kottkamp nearly died after bypass surgery when a mold infection developed in his chest. Florida now caps damages in suits against public hospitals at $250,000, so Kottkamp instead sued the hospital construction company he alleges created the moldy conditions that led to his infection. Perhaps the most disturbing thing to business groups is that it looks like Kottkamp and running mate Charlie Crist are likely to be elected...

The Crist Campaign has tried to insulate itself from the criticism of the Republican base by making some unusual promises. If elected, Crist and Kottkamp have vowed to put damage caps on personal injury awards against Florida construction companies. Or, if that is not possible, to declare mold the state flower.

October 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Picture Button Justice For Accused

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I never thought of having to try a medical malpractice case involving a nursing error with the spectator section of the courtroom full of nurses in crisp, white uniforms. Or, presenting a case against a police department before a packed courtroom of police officers.

Either scenario would strike me as creating an environment prejudicial to the injured plaintiff's cause. My assumption would be that the jury would get the impression that the community favors the defense. Or, that a defense verdict would be the best outcome.

These thoughts came to mind when I read about this argument before the U.S. Supreme Court:

High court considers buttons' role in proceedings

The Supreme Court on Wednesday debated whether a murder victim's family prejudiced the trial of an accused killer by wearing buttons to court bearing a picture of the slain man.

The justices waded into issues of defendants' rights, struggling with the question of whether the buttons visible to the jury in Mathew Musladin's case denied him a fair trial or were a harmless expression of grief. The state of California is seeking to reinstate Musladin's conviction, which was thrown out by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

I do not know about the constitutional rights of victims, the families of victims or criminal defendants. But, I do know what impact the picture buttons would likely have on the minds of some jurors.

October 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Don't Provoke A Trial Lawyer

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Don't provoke me - I am a Type A personality. This may be the required warning label on the chest of many trial lawyers.

Aggressiveness And Irritability Found To Be Associated With Aggressive Behavior

Specific personality variables, such as anger or irritability predict the tendency to either engage in aggressive behavior willingly or to engage in aggressive behavior when provoked, according to a recent meta-analysis in the September issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

[The study] examined the association between personality variables and aggressive behavior, under provoking and relatively neutral conditions. The following personality variables were identified: trait aggressiveness, trait irritability, trait anger, Type A personality, dissipation-rumination, emotional susceptibility (tendency to feel inadequate or vulnerable), narcissism, and impulsivity.

Persons identified as having an aggressive and irritable personality were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior regardless of whether situations were provoking. "This may suggest that these persons have the capacity to engage in cold-blooded style of aggressive behavior, reacting harshly as a result to little or no agitation" said lead author B. Ann Bettencourt.

The review also found that personality variables, and the level of provocation, interact to influence aggressive behavior. For instance, people who are Type A personalities, have a tendency to express anger (trait anger), have self-destructive tendencies and mull-over upsetting situations, are emotional susceptible, narcissistic and for the most part impulsive were more likely to behave aggressively only under provoking conditions.

October 08, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Newest Tort Reform Strategy

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I suspect the Tort Reform effort has moved into a new phase. Studies and articles like the one below are starting to crop up. The common theme is the unimportance of money. Next, there will be scientific evidence that uncompensated injured persons and unsuccessful trial lawyers are the happiest people on the planet.

Expert: Money can't buy happiness

Money can't buy happiness, but happiness can buy you money, according to a U.S. psychologist who says happiness is genetic, attitude and circumstance.

"Happier people seem to have more initiative and productivity at work, and their customers and bosses are more satisfied, which can lead to a raise in pay," said Dr. Michael Frisch, a professor of psychology at Baylor University, who co-authored a study with a University of Pennsylvania psychologist and three students.

People who are more materialistic and place being rich as a high value tend to be more pessimistic and unhappy.

If there is any truth to this study it explains the attitude of most doctors. The only thing that can save them from the grumps is socialized medicine.

October 07, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Analysis Of The "Medicine" In $217 Million Verdict Not Productive

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Kevin M.D. the medicine behind the $217 medical malpractice verdict in Tampa, Florida, is being reviewed.

The medicine behind the Navarro stroke case

More details are emerging from the record breaking malpractice case. Let's look at the medicine behind the case:

On Aug. 9, 2000, Navarro, who was a professional basketball player in his native Philippines, entered University Community Hospital-Carrollwood with a headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion and double vision. He described a personal medical history of hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol plus a family history of strokes to the triage nurse. A different nurse than the triage nurse also noted he was unsteady on his feet.

When Navarro spoke with Herranz in the examination room, he mentioned the sudden onset of a headache earlier that day and that he had felt a "pop" in his head.

According to the 2005 second amended complaint, Herranz did not complete an adequate medical history of Narvarro, nor did he do a complete or adequate neurological exam.

Navarro spent about 5 1/2 hours at UCH-Carrollwood, during which time he had two CT scans of his brain and was diagnosed with "sinusitis/headache" by Austin, prescribed Vicodin for the pain and an antibiotic by the doctor and sent home. He was not told to watch for any stroke symptoms.

I have commented, as follows, on Kevin's blog:

I realize the effort in this article is to examine the medicine behind the verdict. The medicine only provides the factual basis for the jury to conclude malpractice occurred. As in all malpractice cases it is a yes or no decision. You can slice and dice the facts all week, but, trust me, these facts are not special or unique to lawyers who review missed or delayed diagnosis cases.

The medicine, however, does not provide a good explanation for what is obviously unique - the jury felt the need to award punitive damages and, as a consequence, to be certain the compensatory damages were truly adequate. By their dollar awards in this case the jury is communicating disgust with someone or something (likely multiple someones or somethings). The level of disgust is likely related to the size of the punitive damage award. I would say this jury was about as disgusted as one can get and not yell obscenities.

Since I was not in the courtroom it is difficult to isolate the fuel that ignited the jury's reaction to the case. I have my suspicions, but they could be well off the target.

There is one observation I feel confident enough to express - the probability of an award of punitive damages and a bleed-over into a large compensatory damage award should have been assessed very carefully by the defendants, the insurance company and the defense attorneys. It is extremely rare for a judge to permit a jury in a medical malpractice case to even consider the award of punitive damages. This judge concluded the evidence justified the jury instruction on punitive damages and the arguments of counsel on the subject. Alarm bells should have been ringing very loudly at that point and, probably, well prior to that point.

The fact is that judges have been insulating medical providers from larger medical malpractice verdicts for years by denying the victims the opportunity to seek punitive damages for grossly negligent, reckless or willful misconduct.

One of my suspicions is that some aspect of the defense of the case before the jury was perceived as disingenuous or dishonest. Maybe the jury thought the defense was entirely fair and honest but still awarded over $100 Million in punitive damages. But, more likely, the cock crowed three times during the defense summation.

October 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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And, The Leader In Filing Frivolous Lawsuits Is....Corporate America

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Cyrus Dugger at Tort Deform has alerted me to my major competitors in the filing of frivolous lawsuits. Corporate America appears to have clogged up the civil system even more than greedy trial lawyers.

Businesses More Likely to Sue - More Likely to Sue Frivolously

Ironically, a report by Public Citizen demonstrates that despite their opposition to lawsuits by individuals (often filed against corporations) corporations were found to have filed more lawsuits, and more than that, to have filed more frivolous lawsuits than individual people.

"A recent study by Public Citizen found that in 2001 in Arkansas, Mississippi, Cook County Illinois., and Philadelphia, corporations were 3.3-5.8 times more likely to bring a lawsuit than individual tort plaintiffs. The study also found that when these corporations did file lawsuits, they and their attorneys were 69% more likely than individual tort plaintiffs and their attorneys to be sanctioned by federal judges for filing frivolous claims or defenses."

September 28, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Medical Error Climbing The List

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

On the other side of the world it appears that medical error is working its way to the top of the list of the causes of preventable deaths.

Death By Medicine

Here in New Zealand it has been claimed that medical error, including adverse reactions to drugs, claims over 3,000 lives per year making this the 3rd leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. That the very distant 4th placeholder (road smashes) gets so much attention while medical error receives so little, is a mystery to me and bordering on being downright scandalous.

With the ageing population and the increasing medicalisation of the healthy, I predict it will not be long before medical error becomes the leading cause of preventable death in the developed world.

From where I sit medical error may already be at the top of the list because most of the heart disease and cancer deaths are not presently preventable. Errors, on the other hand, are entirely preventable

September 16, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Some Drug Advertising Campaigns Boost Sales Of Another Company's Drug - A Bitter Pill To Swallow

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Even Big Pharma sometimes wastes its advertising dollars on a campaign that fails to increase sales of a particular drug. Even worse, sometimes a campaign results in increased sales for a rival company's drug of the same class. That is when the drug manufacturer takes two aspirin and goes to bed.

Unexpected Effect Of Direct-to-consumer Drug Ads

Television ads for prescription drugs are everywhere, enticing people to ask their doctors for this drug or that one, but the effect this type of ad has on American healthcare may be more complicated than simply inducing patients to choose one brand or the other, according to a team of researchers.

The researchers found that the direct-to-consumer advertising of Vioxx and Celebrex had positive effects on patient flow, increasing the numbers of patients seeking treatment for osteoarthritis.

The researchers report that "the effect of Vioxx direct-to-consumer advertising was consistently positive, increasing the proportion of osteoarthritis patient visits for which a prescription was written for Vioxx."

The Celebrex advertising was, however, associated with higher rates of Vioxx prescribing, but was not associated with significant changes in prescribing for Celebrex. Possibly, strong efforts by Pfizer drug representatives marketing Celebrex to physicians had already grown the Celebrex prescription base. Another possibility is that the heavy advertising by Pfizer for Vioxx embedded that brand in people's minds early on and Celebrex ads simply reinforced the class of drugs rather than a specific brand.

The researchers did find that direct-to-consumer ads for Vioxx and Celebrex influenced doctors' prescribing and patient behaviors.

"These ads convinced more people to visit their doctor's for treatment of osteoarthritis," says Kleit of Penn State. "Interestingly, the Celebrex ads were not very good at getting people to ask for or prescribe Celebrex, but did influence visits to the doctor and Vioxx prescriptions, exhibiting a class effect."

September 14, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Post Medical Error Suffering - Together We Can Lift This Burden

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A special thanks today to This Makes Me Sick for bringing to our attention the tragedy of Post Medical Error Suffering (PMES). Finally, this affliction will get the attention it deserves.

I commit to redoubling my personal efforts to bring more medical errors into the light of day and to provide more doctors and nurses the opportunity to compensate their victims. Healthcare professionals, I feel your pain. Help is on the way. Along with you, I curse those risk management and defense instructions to keep your mouths shut.

The Great Untalked About in Med-Mal

The media often talks about the pain visited upon patients and families by medical errors (which is very real), but rarely do they talk about the pain and suffering experienced by medical professionals after medical errors. Sure, there are those healthcare professionals who are cold and callous and truly don't care, but the vast majority of doctors and nurses suffer greatly after a medical error. They beat themselves up and literally grieve.

The situation is made worse when risk management and defense counsel tell the doctor or nurse to shut up and abandon the patient/family. Healthcare professionals being told not to heal patients and families who have been hurt only makes a bad situation worse. There are countless stories of clinical depression, ruined careers, divorces, and even suicides among healthcare professionals after medical errors.

September 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Pharma Big Fan Of Medicare Drug Benefit

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Guess who is doing quite well with the Medicare drug benefit.

Drug Benefit 'Boosting' Revenue for Pharmaceutical Companies

The Medicare drug benefit "is boosting prescription volume and revenue for drug companies," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

According to IMS Health, Medicare prescription drug plans cover about 12.4% of all U.S. prescriptions. As a result, the Medicare prescription drug benefit "has had a pronounced effect on pharmaceutical companies' financial results, with a majority of U.S. pharmaceutical revenues in the second quarter exceeding Wall Street expectations," the Inquirer reports.

September 08, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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If You Had A Hammer Would You Perform Angioplasties?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

We have an article posted last month by Fixin' Healthcare to thank for this lesson in medical economics:

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Heart And Soul

Should we be surprised by the news that angioplasties are performed at four times the national rate in Elyria, Ohio? Not really. Researchers at Dartmouth have reported for some time now the variation between different parts of the country for procedure rates.

That it is Elyria and angioplasties are specifics in a data base that describes our health care system very well. All anyone has to know about this particular situation is that the North Ohio Heart Center employs 31 cardiologists.

Don't be surprised that someone does what they are trained to do, particularly when it is lucrative. When you are a hammer, the whole world is a nail.

Thirty-one cardiologists clustered together will result in the care for a lot of hearts or a lot of care for as many hearts as might be available and paid for. Saturation bombing will do no good. They will disperse and move to other clusters or form new ones.

September 07, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Pope Was Not Available So "Judge" Martin Issued The Vioxx Vindication

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The Wall Street Journal is blogging over the issue of how to address former judges. Should the world still call them Your Honor or Judge? Or, should we get back to the customary Mr.?

In the article on the WSJ Law Blog, however, the specific former judge and his proper title is far from a matter of courtesy. Merck carefully selected The Honorable John S. Martin, Jr., to supposedly issue his report concerning the handling of Vioxx by Merck. The very fact that the name of the former judge is the top line in the title of the report reveals the importance Merck and the Debevoise & Plimpton LLP law firm place on the prestige of the former judgeship. If Merck had been able to land the Pope as the front man for this corporate ploy, the title would have been: The Report of HIS HOLINESS, POPE BENEDICT XVI...

Should We Call Former Judges "Judge"?

Here was the title page of the 179-page outside investigative report ordered by Merck's board that largely exonerated the drug maker's handling of Vioxx:

Report of The Honorable John S. Martin, Jr.
to the Special Committee
of the Board of Directors of Merck & Co., Inc.
Concerning the Conduct of Senior Management in the
Development and Marketing of Vioxx

Also on the cover page, on the bottom right-hand corner: Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. That's because The Honorable John S. Martin, Jr., is a former federal judge who stepped down from the bench in 2003 to practice law at Debevoise. In its opening page the report states, "Judge Martin and a team of lawyers and paralegals from Debevoise spent over 53,000 hours conducting an investigation over a period of approximately 20 months."

Now we know it's common practice to continue to refer to judges as "judge" long after they leave the bench.

...is it unbecoming for Merck and its lawyers to trade off the fact that John Martin once wore a robe?

Is it unbecoming for Judge Martin to allow his judgeship to be cheapened by this PR effort?

September 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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I Am The Greatest

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Out there in medical offices, hospitals and clinics there is a subset of clinicians who appear, either by training or personality, unable to judge themselves. In other words, they overestimate their skills. Nobody would care except that they practice these imaginary skills on patients.

Doctors Often Overestimate Their Expertise

TUESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors often have a falsely exaggerated view of their own capabilities, a new study suggests.

In fact, physicians who were judged by outsiders to be the worst performers in a given area often gave themselves especially high marks, researchers report.

"There is a subset of clinicians who appear, either by training or personality, unable to judge themselves," said study lead researcher Dr. David Davis, a professor of health policy management and evaluation at the University of Toronto, in Canada.

His team published its findings in the Sept. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In their review, Davis and his colleagues in Canada and the United States decided to see what the accumulated data had to say about the accuracy of physician self-assessments. To do so, they focused on 17 studies comparing doctors' self-assessments against those of an objective, external reviewer.

"In two-thirds of those studies, it appears as though physicians, without any outside means of observing their behavior, misjudged their competence," Davis said.

In many cases, doctors thought they were very adept in certain tasks -- detecting signs of sexual abuse in patients, for example, or delivering joint injections -- but were typically deemed to be poor performers by outside experts.

September 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctors Asked To "Remember The Alamo"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Eric Novack, MD, posting at This Makes Me Sick is in his full manly battlefield mode. See if you can spot the references to military matters in what should logically be a rational discussion of important issues to physicians. General Novack, I mean, Dr. Novack, addresses his troops (whoops!) in the manner of George S. Patton. Slapped any patients around, lately, General?

'Is The Crisis Over?'

The issue of medical liability reform appears to have lost some of its front-page appeal to doctors and the media over the last several months. The big question is why?

The real issue is that physicians are coming to realize that the greater threat to them is the prospect of going out of business due to the double whammy of decreasing reimbursement combined with greater regulation and diminished bargaining clout with the private insurance oligarchy. So, while the battle for medical liability reform remains an essential front in the war on medicine, the focus has shifted to the real battleground: physician autonomy and reimbursement.

Physician groups need to continue to be vigilant about not being portrayed as 'tilting at windmill's when it comes to medical liability reform. But, we must recognize that the issue of tort reform would be a pyrrhic victory indeed if autonomy and reimbursement go the way of the Alamo.

Go the way of the Alamo. Now there is a really helpful image for us all to ponder. Remember the Alamo - the new rallying cry of the medical profession.

September 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Do No Harm" Is Manufacturer's Duty

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Chris Rangel, at RangelMD.com, discusses whether large verdicts against negligent or reckless corporations have an impact upon their future conduct - a fair discussion to have.

But, Chris takes a bridge too far when he says, Ensuring that as few people get hurt as possible is not part of the job of a company.

It appears massively simplistic to believe that corporations would "think twice" before developing a dangerous product. Ironically, corporations not only think twice, they have entire risk and prediction analyses about the potential liability of every consumer product. If the risk is too high then they stop. If the sales from a product are likely to exceed losses from any successful litigation then they proceed.

Companies don't really care if a few people get hurt using their products as long as profits are not hurt as well. Ensuring that as few people get hurt as possible is not the job of a company, as bad as that sounds. It's the job of regulatory agencies in government.

Since Chris is an M.D., I'll put it this way: First, do no harm. Chris learned this in medical school. It applies to every individual and every corporation in America. No new product should expose its users to an unreasonable risk of harm. Just as no competent physician should place a patient in the path of an unreasonable risk.

I do not believe it is solely the job of regulatory agencies to protect medical patients, and I do not believe it is solely the job of such agencies to police the marketplace for dangerous and defective products.

September 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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AMA Labels The Medical Liability System As Awful, Awful, Terrible And God-Awful - Sounds Like Some Doctors I Have Sued

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The President of the American Medical Association, in an exclusive interview, has announced the results of his analysis of the U.S. medical liability system - awful, awful and terrible.

Interview: An 'awful' tort system, AMA

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- In an exclusive interview with United Press International, William Plested III, president of the American Medical Association, says that limits on medical tort "pain and suffering" damages are not enough without comprehensive reform of the medical liability system.

Q: Medical tort reform at the federal level failed to pass earlier this year in the Senate. Are limits on medical tort "pain and suffering" damages going to be an issue for each state to decide from now on?

A: That's kind of a sad commentary on our federal government that that hasn't happened, but that's exactly what we're seeing. But the changes (at the state level) that we've seen are temporary fixes. The $250,000 (damages) caps that we've passed in the state of California stabilized (medical malpractice) premiums somewhat, but we still have this awful, awful system. This is a terrible system.

At the end of the exclusive interview, as William reached for one more grenade, he revealed his most damning description - god-awful.

Q: [Ken Suggs, head of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America] said there is no medical malpractice "crisis." Any comment?

A: Well, do you want (a crisis)? If the message to American physicians is, this god-awful system will never be changed until you give us a crisis, what do you think we're going to say? We can't beat our heads against the wall trying to protect your ability to get care.

There you have it. A man of science presents his findings.

August 31, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctors Are Practicing "Defense-of-Income Medicine"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A special thanks to Doc Advocate for a better explanation for defensive medicine. In its recent post we are reminded that the Congressional Budget Office has suggested that its studies do not support fear of frivolous lawsuits as the true cause of supposedly unnecessary testing. Rather, the CBO nominates income generation for doctors as a more likely cause.

What we have, apparently, is defense-of-income medicine.

Medical malpractice reform has been the source of heated debate, but there's little data about the impact of frivolous lawsuits on health care costs -- though they're frequently cited as a major cause of health care cost inflation.

The powerful American Medical Association, which represents doctors, cites statistics indicating the fear of malpractice claims has caused nearly 80 percent of doctors to order tests they otherwise wouldn't have.

But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the General Accounting Office and the Kaiser Family Foundation say there is little evidence to support that claim.

"Defensive medicine may be motivated less by liability concerns than by the income it generates for physicians or by the positive, albeit small, benefits to patients," the CBO said in a 2004 briefing.

"On the basis of existing studies and its own research, CBO believes that savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small."

August 18, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Honesty Apparently Not Taught In Medical Schools

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

If doctors are not honest about medical errors (the conspiracy of silence) why should we expect them to be honest about the reason for the conspiracy of silence?

Lawsuit fears aren't reason for docs' silence on errors

As debates over medical malpractice raged in Washington and across the country, many doctors have blamed a litigious system in the United States for discouraging doctors from openly admitting mistakes to patients. Those same doctors have held up the Canadian system, which drastically limits liability and discourages lawsuits, as a model.

But it turns out that it's not the risk of lawsuits that zips doctors' lips but rather the "culture of medicine" itself, say leading researchers on the subject.

Canadian doctors are just as reluctant to fess up to mistakes, said Dr. Thomas Gallagher, a University of Washington internal-medicine physician and co-author of two studies published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. They are the first to compare attitudes about error disclosure among doctors in the two countries.

In fact, Canadian and U.S. doctors' attitudes about disclosure were "very, very similar," Gallagher said. "Even in settings where doctors worry less about malpractice, disclosure is still difficult for doctors."

The results strongly suggest that the medical-malpractice environment, long believed by many doctors to be the "root of all evil," is not the prime deterrent to doctors' disclosing errors, Gallagher said.

Does this make the culture of medicinee the root of all evil?

August 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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When A Doctor Is Likely To Disclose Medical Errors

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Parallel Universes posts on the subject of revealing medical errors to patients. You can read the statistics. Apparently, an error has to be both serious and obvious to assure it will be disclosed.

Don't Tell The Patients

Doctors are less likely to reveal major medical mishaps if the error is not obvious to the patient, new research has found. A study of almost 2700 American and Canadian doctors has found that 65 per cent would definitely disclose a serious mistake made during treatment.

But the medics varied widely in when and how they told patients an error had occurred. A doctor confronted with a obvious error was far more likely to impart the news to their patient than one faced with a less apparent mistake.

You can read the abstract of the study published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine here, and the results are:

64 percent of the doctors agreed that (medical) errors are a serious problem;

50 percent disagreed that errors are usually caused by system failures

98 percent endorsed disclosing serious errors to patients;

78 percent supported disclosing minor errors;

74 percent thought disclosing a serious error would be very difficult;

58 percent had disclosed a serious error to a patient;

85 percent were satisfied with the disclosure

August 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Grow Up Americans - Stop Suing Corporate America

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Blogging Things Daily espouses the Tort Reform line: Americans need to stop suing manufacturers. We need to grow up and simply make better choices and leave corporate America alone. If we don't, the world as we know it will come to an end.

I agree with the concession in the article that we live in a society where numerous unhealthy products are created, manufactured, distributed and sold to consumers.

Freedom of choice - we have a distinct CHOICE whether or not to use certain products - I also recognize and value.

How we get from unhealthy or dangerous products and freedom of choice to granting immunity to corporate America, however, is a mystery to my greedy brain. I certainly choose to drive my car each day, to obtain medical care, to have prescriptions filled, to fly in airplanes, to ride on buses, to lower my fanny into lawn chairs, to crank up my chairsaw, to eat at restaurants, to walk into supermarkets, to breathe continuously and to be a responsible citizen who does as little as I can to put anyone else at risk.

Apparently, because corporate America does not drive a car, obtain medical care, get prescriptions filled, fly in airplanes, ride on buses, sit in lawn chairs, use chainsaws, eat at restaurants, walk into supermarkets or breathe it is licensed to injure and kill us humans. It is up to humans to stay out of its way.

The Lawsuit Matrix

According to an article written by Michael Weissentstein, A New York Jury awarded $20 Million in punitive damages to a smoker's widow (after a jury deliberation of over two days).

Let's take a long and very deep perspective of the grand effects this ruling may have on corporate America:

...the phenomenal repercussion of this landmark decision may create extreme, adverse effects.

...would it not only be right and justifiable that ALL persons who have died from lung cancer due to smoking should be awarded equal amounts as well?

[Then follows a parade of defective products which have caused injuries.]

The fact is, we live in a society where numerous unhealthy products are created, manufactured, distributed and sold to consumers. The point being that we CANNOT hold every company responsible for OUR OWN ACTIONS...The nice thing about America, is that we have a distinct CHOICE whether or not to use certain products. When our overuse, misuse or general use of a product comes with repercussions, we must choose to accept our own fate and learn from it.

I leave you with one piece of advice: Live. Learn. Prevent. Suing industries for our own choices, is a travesty to America and will ultimately lead to irrevocable circumstances.

August 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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And The Winner Is...Dr. Rock Solid, Witness For The Plaintiff

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I propose a national campaign to honor the expert witnesses who testify on behalf of patients in medical malpractice cases. It could be called Doctors For Justice and would even announce annual awards for the witnesses who best represent the guts, competence and communication skills required. Why do I make this proposal? Read the RedOrbit article below.

Fear of Discipline Can Chill Potential Medical Experts

A medical malpractice lawsuit sits on Steve Sanders' desk. And he knows of a great witness that would help his case.

The problem is the witness refuses to talk.

It's frustrating, said Sanders, a Northland attorney who was not surprised by a doctor's reluctance to testify against his colleague.

Sanders' situation is not unique to lawyers who represent plaintiffs in medical-malpractice cases. Doctors fear they will be retaliated against if they provide expert assistance in a plaintiff's case, Nancy Kenner of Kenner & Kavanaugh said.

Kenner began her career defending doctors accused of malpractice. Then, she didn't have any difficulty finding doctors to testify in the defense of her clients.

It was very simple, she said. Switching to the other side several years ago was very difficult.

We look for legitimate, credible, practicing doctors to testify, she added. We are still able to do that, but we have to look hard sometimes.

In some parts of the country, doctors who testify for plaintiffs find themselves in trouble with their licensing organizations or medical societies. Some have termed it a national campaign by medical societies to discipline doctors who testify for plaintiffs.

July 30, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Litigation In The Public Interest - Enforcing The Term Limits Promise

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Overlawyered has a post on a lawsuit we should encourage. In fact, I suggest a class action.

Congressman sued for breaking "Contract with America"

U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, a Republican who represents Mississippi's First District, is being sued by Democratic opponent Ken Hurt on the grounds that he breached a promise made in connection with the "Contract with America" not to run for a seventh term.

The Contract, which Republicans put forth as part of their successful campaign for control of Congress in 1994, proposed 12-year term limits for House members, and Hurt says Wicker promised to serve no more than that span. The term limit idea was never enacted into law. Wicker's campaign manager, Kirk Sims, called the new suit "frivolous and, quite frankly, a little nutty".

Of course, even if Rep. Wicker were to honor his promise not to run for a 7th term in Congress I am sure he would either (a) bequeath his seat to someone in his family or (b) use his connections to remain in Washington with FEMA.

July 30, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Mel Gibson All-Purpose Apology

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

We can all thank Mel Gibson for creating the perfect, all-purpose apology for stupid statements made at the time of arrest.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended."

Now, all we need is an all-purpose apology for the conduct that caused the arrest in the first place (in this instance drunken driving). I propose the following:

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I decided to drive while (inebriated, intoxicated, under the influence, stoned...) and know my conduct was despicable. I am deeply ashamed and apologize."

Mel Gibson Apologizes for Tirade After Arrest

MALIBU, Calif., July 29 -- The film star and director Mel Gibson apologized Saturday for belligerent behavior and for saying what he called "despicable" things that he does "not believe to be true" when he was arrested here on a drunken-driving charge early Friday

The sheriff's report, carried on TMZ.com, a Web site owned by Time Warner, said Mr. Gibson had demanded to know if the officer, James Mee, was a Jew. During an obscenity-laced tirade, according to the report, Mr. Gibson also said "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

In a one-paragraph statement issued Saturday through his publicist, Alan Nierob, Mr. Gibson said: "I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended."

July 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Warning: This Blog Contains Sassy Commentary

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

My mother used to tell me not to be sassy. So, what am I to make of the comments of Mary Whisner at Trial Ad Notes in her post, Greedy Trial Lawyer is a legal blog with an attitude?

Mary, who is assistant librarian for reference services at the Gallagher Law Library of the University of Washington, says my blog contains sassy commentary on tort litigation served up with a big slice of irony.

In my defense, Mom, truth sometimes comes in sassy.

July 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Shoplifting And Medical Malpractice Get Passes

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Sam Walton had it right. He prosecuted shoplifters - no matter the price of the lifted item. But, times change. A New York Times story explains why the change was made.

The little evil or small sin is not worth the effort of Wal-Mart employees. The so-called professional shoplifters will now have more eyes on them.

No wonder jurors are now forgiving innocent carelessness on the part of wrongdoers (especially medical providers). Or, not compensating less-than-catastrophic injuries. The moral and legal stop signs that used to be enforced and, therefore, respected, are coming down.

Some Leeway for the Small Shoplifter

Wal-Mart refuses to carry smutty magazines. It will not sell compact discs with obscene lyrics. And when it catches customers shoplifting -- even a pair of socks or a pack of cigarettes -- it prosecutes them.

But now, in a rare display of limited permissiveness, Wal-Mart is letting thieves off the hook -- at least in cases involving $25 or less.

According to internal documents, the company, the nation's largest retailer and leading destination for shoplifting, will no longer prosecute first-time thieves unless they are between 18 and 65 and steal merchandise worth at least $25, putting the chain in line with the policies of many other retailers.

Under the new policy, a shoplifter caught trying to swipe, say, a DVD of the movie "Basic Instinct 2" ($16.87) would receive a warning, but one caught walking out of the store with "E.R. -- The Complete Fifth Season" ($32.87) would face arrest.

Wal-Mart said the change would allow it to focus on theft by professional shoplifters and its own employees, who together steal the bulk of merchandise from the chain every year, rather than the teenager who occasionally takes a candy bar from the checkout counter.

July 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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How Allstate Put Boxing Gloves On Its "Good Hands"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Some might say that Allstate is a Greedy Insurance Company. Those Good Hands certainly grab for the largest premiums they can every year from state regulators. And, they cling to every dollar they can in paying claims. It is harder every year to pry fair compensation dollars from Allstate even when claims are fully documented and justified.

How did Allstate transform itself into the most miserly and difficult claims-processing insurance company in the country?

Day On Torts blogs on the Allstate approach to injured victims. And, on how the company learned to be give claimants the back of its hand.

Allstate's Claims Handling Practice

Allstate is notorious for its hardball approach to handling claims. Now, Business Week Online tells about a new book "From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves" that will reveal the role that the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. played in changing the business practices of Allstate.

"Rather than simply rushing to the scene of an accident and doling out cash, Allstate deploys a variety of systems set in place by McKinsey to make sure it pays the minimum necessary -- and it plays hardball with those who seek more."

July 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Vioxx Legal Team Doing Well Financially

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Losing Vioxx trials is not a problem for company lawyers.

Merck Legal Team Makes A Killing Off Losing Vioxx Strategy

Not much has changed at Merck since Vioxx was pulled off the market. The only difference for shareholders is that instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to promote Vioxx, the attorney's fees are now costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

...the company has not set aside one dime for potential damage awards in Vioxx trials through 2007. Which means the only good news to report as far as Merck's legal strategy of a case by case defense of thousands of lawsuits in the years ahead, is that the company's legal team will keep raking in dough while Merck slowly goes under.

We now know that tens of thousands of people died, and many more were injured, because Merck concealed the information about the adverse effects of Vioxx. But to date, Merck has not paid one red cent in damages. And the appeals process initiated by Merck attorneys, guarantees that money awarded to any plaintiff so far will be years away. And even then, experts say, the close to $300 million in damages awarded will be reduced to $48 million by caps on punitive damages.

The fact is, that in every new trial, the lawyers for the plaintiffs introduce more embarrassing evidence. For instance, in a California trial that began last week, a former Merck employee, testified that the company did not inform federal authorities about two clinical trials in which users of Vioxx were found to be more likely to die than people given a placebo.

By now, there's certainly plenty of evidence in the public domain to prove that criminal acts were committed. For starters, the Attorney General can review the victims revealed in a 2004 study, lead by FDA scientist, Dr Graham, that says Vioxx caused as many as 140,000 heart attacks and strokes and killed as many as 55,000 people.

June 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Bulletin - "Insurance Companies Don't Really Have Patients' Best Interests In Mind"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Kevin, M.D., there is a revelation - insurance companies don't really have the patients' best interests in mind.

Blue Cross is penalizing endoscopies performed in an outpatient hospital setting

The American Gastroenterological Association issued a statement Monday charging the insurer's pending new policy on performing outpatient endoscopies "will hinder the medical judgment of physicians as to the proper setting for endoscopic procedures, based on the specific needs of individual patients." According to the medical group, Blue Cross of California, starting July 1, will financially penalize doctors who opt to perform endoscopic procedures in an outpatient hospital setting.

In most cases, colonoscopies can only be done at a hospital setting. This penalty is likely a way to discourage screening colonoscopies - which is really too bad. But insurance companies don't really have the patients' best interests in mind.

June 21, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Coming Soon: Merck/Vioxx Redux

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Forbes is reporting on the drug, Vioxx, and its manufacturer, Merck, in a way only Wall Street could understand. Without any expression of concern that Merck is being accused in 11,500 lawsuits of dishonesty in the marketing of its product, the article says some investors see new blockbuster drugs (and, presumably, new breathless advertising) tumbling off the company shelves soon and company pockets stuffed with cash. I guess even a pig looks beautiful to another pig.

Almost two years since Merck's decision to recall the arthritis pill Vioxx, the legal liability from people who say Vioxx caused their heart attacks still casts a shadow over the legendary drug giant--even as Merck unveils some of its most promising new drugs in a decade.

Merck...is fighting some 11,500 product liability lawsuits related to what was once its second-biggest drug. So far, six cases have gone to court, and Merck has lost three. A mistake [lie?] by Merck in the description of a key clinical trial means that the company's oft-repeated claim that it takes 18 months for Vioxx's risk to the heart to emerge was not statistically significant. Merck executives say they stand by the results. Some analysts have estimated Merck's liability could approach $50 billion.

But others on Wall Street are actually warming to the embattled drug giant. They point out that Merck is flush with cash and that new medicines like Gardasil, a vaccine for a virus that leads to cervical cancer; Januvia, for diabetes; and gaboxadil, for insomnia; could become billion-dollar sellers.

Coming soon to your TV screen and drug package insert - the next big mistake/lie?

June 18, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Judges Love This Summer School

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A Florida beach resort, a bunch of judges in shades, a few lectures and videos and you have the makings of JUDICIAL PRIVILEGE.

Summer School for Judges often turns out to be a day at the beach -- and taxpayers foot the bill

SANDESTIN, FLA. -- With a baseball cap, sunglasses and skin tanned the color of Worcestershire sauce, 34th Judicial District Judge Jacques Sanborn plopped into a seaside chair at the Tops'l Beach & Racquet Resort and admired the multi-hued vista over the Gulf of Mexico.

Simultaneously, on the bay side of the popular vacation area, about 80 of his colleagues boned up on recent developments in traffic law and death cases. They were engrossed in continuing legal education -- "CLE," in the shorthand of the legal community, and the ostensible purpose of Sanborn's visit to the Panhandle. He was there to attend what's called "Summer School for Judges," the biggest, best-attended event on Louisiana's CLE calendar.

Over the course of the weeklong event, judges and lawyers have been able to earn up to 25 hours of credit, or twice the mandated annual requirement of 12.5 hours. But like most conference attendees, Sanborn wasn't pushing himself too hard. Though he planned to stay in Florida for the rest of the week, he hadn't registered for the second half of the program, which offers judges a chance to brush up on their courtroom skills during a three-day seminar known as "Nuts & Bolts."

Asked whether he was playing hooky, Sanborn said he planned to attend bar association meetings later in the day and the following afternoon. But he grew testy when asked how many family members had accompanied him on his annual Sandestin trip.

"It's none of your business," he said. "My family is my business."

Though Sanborn and many of his colleagues may regard their traditional week at the Tops'l or another nearby resort as a personal or family matter, Louisiana taxpayers underwrite the jaunt to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The Sandestin conference offers an array of educational offerings for judges, but it has taken on the trappings of a paid vacation for them and their families. Judges receive generous housing allowances with which they rent exclusive beachfront homes or deluxe condominiums, and they typically avail themselves of daily reimbursements that exceed federal guidelines.

Education vs. relaxation

The courthouse crowd's annual Sandestin get-together unfolds against an academic environment that is far from rigorous, and education often takes a back seat to relaxation. Despite ample opportunity to complete CLE requirements during their week in Florida, nearly half of the local judges who attended in 2004 fail to do so, a review of their transcripts shows.

In 2004, it cost $238,231 to send 73 local judges to the conference, an average cost of $3,219 per judge. Included among the attendees were 10 judges over the age of 65, at which point the state CLE mandate expires. The Sandestin blowout absorbed 40 percent of the $590,591 that was spent on continuing legal education by local jurists in 2004, records show. CLE costs are covered through taxpayer dollars and courthouse fees.

Of course, not every judge goes to Sandestin each year. Records indicate that one-third of the 125 judges who have served on benches in New Orleans or the surrounding parishes haven't been to Sandestin in the past three years. Some judges are openly uncomfortable with the arrangement.

One of them is Martha Sassone, who has handled cases in Jefferson Parish's 24th Judicial District for 16 years. She attended the Sandestin conference only once, in her second or third year on the bench, she said.

"After that first time, I just thought it was a very expensive proposition and I made a decision I wasn't going to use public funds to do that," Sassone said. "I guess my philosophy is different from some other judges, but I don't feel comfortable spending that much money on CLE, especially when we've laid off people in the 24th and say we have all these post-Katrina budget issues."

Sassone stressed that she's not questioning the spending habits of any specific judge, but from a general standpoint she harbors doubts about the week's validity. She said she focuses her CLE on local classes and a short Biloxi, Miss., conference, called "CLE by the Sea," sponsored by the Jefferson Bar Association.

June 16, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Three Surgeons And A Manual Do Not A Competent Team Make

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Sometimes going by the manual is not a good thing. Doctors avoid prison for malpractice death is a headline from The Japan Times. The story of the Three Stooges who allowed a patient to bleed to death during an 11 1/2 hour surgery they had never performed before makes you wonder what it takes to send a doctor to prison for manslaughter.

Three Jikei University School of Medicine doctors were handed suspended prison terms Thursday for a botched 11 1/2-hour operation during which they had to use a manual to do a procedure they were unfamiliar with, causing their 60-year-old prostate cancer patient to die.

The Tokyo District Court found Jun Madarame, 40, the head surgeon; Taro Hasegawa, 37, the patient's attending physician and an assisting surgeon; and surgical resident Shigetaka Maeda, 35, guilty of professional negligence for conducting a new procedure to remove the man's prostate gland when they did not have enough experience to do it.

The 11 1/2-hour operation was conducted on the prostate cancer patient at Jikei University School of Medicine's Aota Hospital in Tokyo on Nov. 8, 2002. Madarame had only assisted in the procedure, and the other two doctors had no experience.

The doctors were so unsure of what they were doing, they had to have a manual open over the man's body as well as the device's manufacturer and another doctor on the phone telling them what to do. In the process, they ruptured veins.

The man, whose family has asked not be named, was declared brain dead after bleeding profusely. He died when his lungs failed.

June 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Situational Awareness May Reduce Diagnostic Errors - Makes Sense To Me

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Did you know that diagnostic errors have an impact on patient safety? Did you also know this impact is increasingly being recognized? But, the present understanding of diagnostic errors is inadequate?

If you know these things you can skip part of the recent medical journal article, Understanding diagnostic errors in medicine: a lesson from aviation.

The rest of the article, however, is a must read. Especially on your next long flight.

The impact of diagnostic errors on patient safety in medicine is increasingly being recognized. Despite the current progress in patient safety research, the understanding of such errors and how to prevent them is inadequate. Preliminary research suggests that diagnostic errors have both cognitive and systems origins. Situational awareness is a model that is primarily used in aviation human factors research that can encompass both the cognitive and the systems roots of such errors. This conceptual model offers a unique perspective in the study of diagnostic errors.

It is possible that the use of such a model in medicine could help reduce errors in diagnosis and lead to significant improvements in patient care.

Singh H - Quality and Safety in Health Care - 01-JUN-2006; 15(3): 159-64

June 03, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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This Is Cutting-Edge Stuff Here

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Prawfs Blawg I may have found my reason for being.

Dahlia Lithwick has this piece, "Blawgs on a Roll," in The American Lawyer.

"The blogosphere thrives precisely because it exists at the interstices of the ivory tower and pop culture. As a result, it's the most fertile ground for cutting-edge law talk."

I may be providing cutting-edge law talk from some interstices.

I had thought I was just mouthing off from my desktop computer.

June 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Malpractice Lawsuits Beautify America

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Trial lawyers are producing a more youthful-looking and attractive population. Honest! As a totally unexpected benefit of increasing malpractice insurance premiums, which supposedly are caused by trial lawyers, more doctors are removing unwanted hair, rejuvenating skin, and performing other laser procedures to make America beautiful. Now, I can look myself in the mirror and proudly say, "You are doing good for our country."

A Wrinkle in Time Saves...Physicians' Income?

More Physicians Offer Aesthetic Laser Procedures to Maintain Profits

Waltham, Massachusetts (PRWEB) June 1, 2006 -- Millennium Research Group (MRG), the global authority on medical technology market intelligence, reports that more and more physicians are offering laser procedures such as hair removal and skin rejuvenation to help maintain their incomes in the face of managed care cost reductions and increasing malpractice insurance costs. According to the new report entitled US Markets for Aesthetic Lasers 2006, patients are most likely to demand hair removal or skin rejuvenation. Laser systems for these procedures are considered "gateway" devices for physicians (such as general practitioners, obstetricians, and ear, nose, and throat surgeons) to enter the aesthetics business.

"With an aging U.S. population interested in looking younger through noninvasive, reliable, and safe procedures, many physicians are purchasing systems with skin rejuvenation capabilities," says David Plow, Senior Analyst at Millennium Research Group

June 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Anesthesiologist With Different Attitude Sues Hospital Over Wife's Death

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Attitudes change when it is your wife who dies as a result of medical malpractice.

Doctor sues hospital over wife's death

A Tacoma, Wash., anesthesiologist is suing the hospital where he works for what he believes was the preventable death of his wife in March.

Dr. Terry Phillips said staff at St. Joseph Medical Center mismanaged the care of his 55-year-old wife Patty Phillips on March 19 when she went to the emergency department with excruciating abdominal pain. She died the following day, and the autopsy showed 20 inches of her bowel had died and should have been removed, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

The medical term for the condition is a bowel infarction, which Phillips said should be jumped on like a heart attack.

Phillips claimed in the suit his wife should have had an imaging study that would have confirmed the bowel problem and led to immediate surgery.

Phillips said he doesn't have it in for the hospital, but said he sued because sometimes the only way to get the attention needed to improve things is to hit hospitals in the pocketbook.

I have a little different attitude about malpractice than most doctors, he told the newspaper.

May 26, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Federal Judges On The All-Expenses-Paid Seminar Circuit

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The injured victims of misconduct and I would obviously benefit if we could treat federal judges to all expense paid trips to seminars to hear about the daily grief experienced by someone in chronic pain or the economic deprivation caused when a family bread-winner is disabled. Unfortunately, someone from corporate America has already filled their seminar calendars.

MF Blog, an On-line magazine on the topics of politics, history, law, literature, and music, is concerned about federal judges getting all expense paid trips to hear seminars paid for by those with a pro-corporate bent.

Federal Judges should reject free trips to hear corporate agendas

I believe the current federal judicial code of conduct is sufficient to say the judges who have taken these expense paid trips have likely violated [their] conduct code.

MF asks a darn good question: Is it really too much for judges to pay for seminars for the improvement of law or continuing education instead of receiving a free trip to the mountains or the beach to attend a corporate funded seminar (and deduct it from their taxes as would a lawyer who paid for such a seminar)?

My question is: why should our federal judges be attending any seminar hosted by those with a pro-corporate bent?

May 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Red Herring We Keep Picking At

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at Managed Care Matters the discussion of medical malpractice got a little feisty.

Today the summary of the back and forth appears under the title, Readers' views on med mal and my biases.

So here's my net - med mal is not nearly as big an issue in reality as it is emotionally. The inefficiency of the insurance "market" is by far the largest contributor to the problem. Tort reform is a red herring.

Special Note to Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters - The herring has been around so long it is beginning to stink up the place. Thanks for taking the hits and sticking with your conclusions.

May 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Surgeon - Team Player Or Lone Eagle?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I have heard the words many times in depositions. "The operating room team." "The surgical team." How good can the team be if the surgeon is not a team player?

A study based on a survey measuring attitudes toward the work environment in the operating room (OR) reveals that surgeons exhibit the lowest level of teamwork and nurses the highest.

The survey, called the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ), was adapted from an airline industry questionnaire and applied to the health care environment. The SAQ, developed by a Johns Hopkins-led team, contains 65 questions in six areas relating to safety, including teamwork climate, safety climate, job satisfaction, perceptions of management, stress recognition and working conditions. Results appear in the May issues of the Annals of Surgery and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Only 65 percent of OR personnel thought surgeons exhibited a high or very high level of teamwork. In contrast, 83.5 percent of those surveyed believed general surgical nurses exhibit a high or very high level of teamwork and 85 percent rated certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) as showing a high or very high level of teamwork. Anesthesiologist rated third at 79 percent.

Reports by the Institute of Medicine regarding safety in the OR, rising malpractice costs and the demonstrated vulnerability and devastation hospitals face after public exposure of deaths due to OR errors have all drawn attention to the importance of developing sound hospital systems to reduce OR errors. As a result, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) will require all hospitals to measure their culture beginning in 2007.

Wrong-site/wrong-procedure surgeries, retained sponges, unchecked blood transfusions, mismatched organ transplants and overlooked allergies are examples of potentially catastrophic events that, in certain circumstances, can be prevented by improved communication and safer hospital systems.

May 07, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Trial By TV News, Verdict By Telephone Poll

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at News Hounds I ran across a post about the latest trend in our criminal justice system - Duke Lacrosse Defendants Acquitted By FOX News.

Once again, FOX News, the network that president and CEO Roger Ailes claims "likes America," was doing its best last night to undermine one of the bedrocks of our country - the legal system. Without benefit of trial, judge or jury, FOX News has supplanted the courtroom for its television studio and rendered its own prime time verdict on the Duke rape defendants: Not guilty.

As usual, Sean Hannity and FOX News reporter Megyn Kendall seemed to be jockeying for Best Acquittal Argument Disguised As News.

During this segment, I kept thinking, "Why bother with a trial?" and I was already planning my headline along that line when I was startled to hear Colmes say, "I have a great idea... Let's not have a trial. Let's do it right here on Hannity & Colmes."

I think that's exactly what has happened.

Coincidentally, within the last two weeks I watched in amazement as a prominent female news host on another network interviewed a cousin of the alleged victim of the rape. The cousin was not a witness to anything. And, to her credit, right at the start of the interview she announced that she had not spoken to the alleged victim since the incident. The news host pressed on for another several minutes extracting such newsworthy comments as "She is not the kind of person who would lie about something like this" and "She is a good person." I felt very relieved to have these assurances.

Have we arrived at the point where the TV network "news" programs will present such nonsense for, say, three months, and we then telephone our votes in to American Idol, excuse me, American Justice?

May 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Big Pharma's Mining Operations

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

What do cowboys, computerized dossiers the A.M.A., and prescription drugs have in common? After you read this New York Times article you will know and will understand how Big Pharma and Big Medicine do business. Welcome to quality and affordable medical care, the American way.

Doctors Object to Gathering of Drug Data [Data Mining]

Although virtually unknown to consumers, the information has long been considered the most potent weapon in pharmaceutical sales -- computerized dossiers showing which physicians are prescribing what drugs. Armed with such data, a drug sales representative can pressure a doctor to write more prescriptions for a name-brand medicine or fewer orders for a competitor's drug.

But now a rebellion is under way by some doctors, who consider the data-gathering an intrusion that feeds overzealous sales practices among the nation's estimated 90,000 drug company representatives. Public officials are also weighing in. A vote on a state bill to clamp down on the practice is scheduled for today in New Hampshire, and similar bills have been introduced in other states, including Arizona and West Virginia.

"It's the most powerful tool a drug rep has, for sure," said Jamie Reidy, a former drug salesman who was fired last year by Eli Lilly & Company after writing "Hard Sell," a humorous exposé of the pharmaceutical industry. Mr. Reidy said the pharmaceutical representatives received updated prescription data every two weeks. The information also sometimes characterizes each physician's prescribing patterns, Mr. Reidy said.

For example, "early prescribers" -- also known among drug representatives as "cowboys," according to Mr. Reidy -- are those doctors who start prescribing a drug as soon as it comes to market. If you are a drug sales representative, "you go to see that doctor in the first week," Mr. Reidy said.

State Representative Cindy Rosenwald of New Hampshire, lead sponsor of her state's bill, said she was motivated partly by high Medicaid drug costs, which she said she believed had been driven up by the pharmaceutical industry's success in coaxing doctors to prescribe expensive brand-name drugs.

The leading compiler and vendor of prescription data is IMS Health, a publicly traded company based in Fairfield, Conn., that had revenue last year of $1.75 billion. IMS and its competitors gather the data through contracts with retail pharmacy chains and companies that manage drug plans for insurers, then sell it to pharmaceutical companies.

IMS and its competitors -- the main ones are Verispan, Dendrite International and a Dutch company, Wolters Kluwer -- also pay the A.M.A. for access to its repository of information on approximately one million doctors who are graduates of American medical schools, as well as foreign medical school graduates licensed in the United States.

May 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Read Any Good Sagacious Renderings Lately?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Have you been having difficulty unraveling the sagacious renderings from the bad advice on Florida medical malpractice websites? If you have, there is a website that says it can help you. Since I do not feel it is different than any other trolling device for victims who have turned to the Web (except for the somewhat quaint sagacious renderings concept and its pretence at objectivity) I choose not to provide a link. You will have to find this info site on your own. I know you may find this wearisome.

Florida Medical Malpractice

Your Top Florida Medical Malpractice Resources:

Sometimes when you're finding websites on florida medical malpractice it's wearisome to unravel the sagacious renderings from the bad advice. There's so much depth of information on florida medical malpractice that it's often very hard to know where to start. When we construct this info site we knew that we preferred to specialize in providing you the most useful references for florida medical malpractice, we believe we have achieved that.

April 27, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Blithering Idiocy - Is This Medical Malpractice?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Flea, who says he is a pediatrician in solo practice in the Northeast U.S., apparently is defending two medical malpractice cases against him. His venting post includes this:

"I'm confident that I will afford myself of the opportunity to blog about my malpractice suits in the future. For now, I will observe to the Flea-faithful that the basis of both suits is that I am a blithering idiot. My defense is that I am not a blithering idiot."

Flea reminded me how polite the language of medical malpractice is, both in its pleadings and in the courtroom. I mean, we talk about a breach of the accepted standard of care and medical negligence when there are plenty of occasions when we really should be using words like stupidity, insanity, absurdity, foolishness, imbecility and folly.

Thank you, Flea, for revealing the true reason you are in court as idiocy. By the way, blithering means talking idly or incoherently - what did you say to those patients?

April 26, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Celebrity Victims Of Malpractice Open Eyes Of Tort Reformer

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Over at ThisMakesMeSick it seems the death of John Ritter, allegedly as a result of medical malpractice, has struck a nerve.

Celebrities Aren't Immune To Medical Malpractice

We've seen tons of examples where medical malpractice has had disastrous consequences for patients. Now we read that a number of celebs have faced these screw-ups. Here are some famous and, unfortunately, some fatal cases.

John Ritter

Dick Schaap

Dana Carvey

Julie Andrews

ThisMakesMeSick answers renowned medical inventor Dr. Robert Fischell's wish to spread awareness (and outrage!) about the medical liability crisis that's ruining our healthcare system.

My question to Mr. Renowned Medical Inventor is, why should we feel less compassion or provide fewer rights to our neighbors and family members than to celebrities? Thank you for briefly spreading awareness about the patient safety/medical error crisis that is killing and injuring us. But, less famous victims deserve justice and understanding, too.

April 25, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Some Rational Talk About Health Care In The U.S.

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Reading the headline can be a shocker: Cuba Has Better Medical Care Than the U.S. But, reading the article at The Huffington Post probably confirms what most of us have come to know or, at least, to suspect, about the inefficiencies of the American health care industry.

Statistics don't lie.

Figures from the World Health Organization clearly show that The United States lags behind 36 other countries in overall health system performance ranging from infant mortality, to adult mortality, to life expectancy.

20 countries in Europe and four countries in Asia have a better life expectancy than the U.S. If you are a male between the ages of 15 and 59, your chances of dying are higher in the U.S. (140 per thousand) than in Canada, 95, Costa Rica 127, Chile 134, and Cuba, 138.

The U.S. Health system looks especially dysfunctional when you consider how much money we spend per capita on healthcare -- $6,000 plus per year, twice as much as any other country -- and how little we get for it.

Canada spends $2,163 and boasts a life expectancy of 79.8 years, two and a half years longer than the US. Their infant mortality rate per thousand is also better than ours, as is their adult mortality rate.

One grand irony, Cuba whose economy has been bankrupt for the last decade -- food shortages, drug shortages, chronic unemployment, etc. -- and which annually spends a miserly $185 per person on health care, has better infant and adult mortality rates than the US, and has a life expectancy nearly equal to ours.

The long-term answer is obvious. Adopt a single-payer system like Canada's. Not socialized medicine. Doctors would remain private. By cutting out the bureaucracy, needless lawsuits, and curbing greed, the US could save 50% of the monies now being squandered, more than enough to cover the 50 million uninsured, according to a General Accounting Office and Congressional Budget Office report.

Ironically, we already have a successful single-payer healthcare program. Medicare, which covers people over 65, has an administrative and overhead cost of just 2%. Compare this low figure with the $399 billion spent on administrative middleman services in the free-market sector of health care last year.

There is much more to the article and in the numerous comments. Needless lawsuits is a subject for another day.

April 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Now I Know Why My Doctor Keeps His Mouth Shut

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The next time you shyly display your obese body to your family doctor you may hear something like, "We-- all of us-- live in an imperfect world, and need to strive to remember all for which we should be grateful." Now that religion has gone to nothing but "happy talk" it is only logical that doctors will stop pestering "all of us" about eating ourselves into an early grave.

The good doctor at Guarino seems to feel that fat may be beautiful after all.

Law professor John Banzhaf, III at George Washington University Law School suggests that obesity suits against physicians are on the horizon. The article states, "He claims that if physicians don't counsel obese patients about the risks of carrying additional weight, and help them lose weight, they may be the next targets."

The article suggests, however, the implications of physicians routinely taking this approach to protect themselves medicolegally. "Obese patients tend to be emotional about this issue. They can be reluctant to seek or follow through on medical care, perhaps feeling mistreated or misunderstood."

Initiating discussion on this topic, uninvited, is a surefire way to alienate a significant slice of obese patients.

We-- all of us-- live in an imperfect world, and need to strive to remember all for which we should be grateful.

April 14, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Disease Mongering Is Latest Drug Industry Ploy

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Are you suffering from a made-for-TV disease? Do you feel the urge to take a drug that can provide relief (according to the incessant TV commercials)? If your answer is yes you have been the victim of disease mongering by the drug industry.

Are Pharmaceutical Companies Inventing Diseases, New Study Suggests They Are

According to a report in the Public Library of Science and Medicine, pharmaceutical companies are inventing diseases in order to up their sales figures.

Weaved into 'lllnesses' are such reports as 'sexual dysfunction affects 43% of US females', say David Henry and Ray Moynihan, authors of the report. They added that high cholesterol and osteoporosis are being labelled 'diseases' by the industry.

Restless leg syndrome, a relatively rare condition are being blown out of all proportions, they say.

Disease Awareness Campaigns, funded by the industry, are aimed at promoting drug sales rather than informing people about how to take preventive measures.

The researchers accuse the industry of widening the boundaries of illness, which results in more treatments for these 'illnesses', said the researchers.

Disease mongering turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources, and causes iatrogenic harm. Like the marketing strategies that drive it, disease mongering poses a global challenge to those interested in public health, demanding in turn a global response.

Source

Is disease mongering the final step in the degradation of the drug industry? Have the drug manufacturers finally decided that it is better to cure a fictitious disease than lose market share? Think about these questions when you see the next fake doctor in a TV commercial.

April 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Results In Drug Studies Follow The M-O-N-E-Y

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Guess whose drug looks best in drug company-funded studies? That is the question posed by Leigh Hopper at MedBlog. She then quotes from a Washington Post story that confirms our strong suspicions about the integrity of drug studies financed by particular drug manufacturers.

"I have come to believe a lot of inefficiency is quite deliberate and supported by Congress," he said. "One person's inefficiency is another person's income."

I love this kicker quote at the end of a Washington Post story about how studies comparing schizophrenia drugs often favor the drug made by the company funding the study.

In fact, when psychiatrist John Davis analyzed every publicly available trial funded by the pharmaceutical industry pitting five new antipsychotic drugs against one another, nine in 10 showed that the best drug was the one made by the company funding the study.... (E)xperts note that industry studies invariably seek to boost the image of expensive drugs that are still under patent. ...

By contrast, when the federal government recently compared a broader range of drugs in typical schizophrenia patients in a lengthy trial, two medications that stood out were cheaper drugs not under patent.

It shouldn't take a greedy trial lawyer to understand that you have to follow the money.

April 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Back To A Better Time

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A headline, Chiropractor claims he can go back in time, caught my attention a few days ago. Excerpts from the bizarre story are below. But, the more I thought about the doctor's discovery of a skill that enables him to go back in time to correct a physical problem, the more I thought he may be onto something.

We all have the ability to return our society to a healthier time, a time when we respected those with different points of view, protected the rights of the unfortunate among us, were proud of being an American, demanded honesty and openness in our government, smiled more often and laughed at ourselves.

Thank you, Dr. Burda, for giving us the new motto: Citizens, Heal Thy Selves!!

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A chiropractor who claims he can treat anyone by reaching back in time to when an injury occurred has attracted the attention of state regulators.

The Ohio State Chiropractic Board, in a notice of hearing, has accused James Burda of Athens of being "unable to practice chiropractic according to acceptable and prevailing standards of care due to mental illness, specifically, Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type."

Burda denied that he is mentally ill. He said he possesses a skill he discovered by accident while driving six years ago.

"My foot hurt and, knowing anatomy, I went ahead and I told it to realign and my pain went away," Burda said Thursday.

April 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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How "Standard" Is The Contingency Fee?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Yes, trial lawyers who represent injured victims almost always are retained on a contingency fee basis. No, it is not the evil twin of usury. But, it has become "standard." That term gets an up close and personal look by an ethicist at Harvard.

David Giacalone, posting on f/k/a...., presents a lengthy discussion of the contingency fee in the practice of personal injury law.

I have excerpted only one paragraph which provides the coloration of the discussion. Despite David's attitude (which may be just poetic license in his case)the article is worth a read.

contingency fees: do "standard" fees still exist?

Pity the poor personal injury lawyer -- he just doesn't have enough hands. In addition to a perennial gladhand, plus the one needed for patting his/her own back (over free services, selflessness, and gladitorial courage), the p/i lawyer has had to weigh just how to talk about the contingency fee that gets presented to virtually every client, in p/i cases all over town.

David may not appreciate that even the greediest personal injury attorney frequently finds it necessary or appropriate to reduce the agreed-upon contingency rate at the conclusion of the case. The contingency fee arrangement does set the ceiling for the fee at the inception of the attorney-client relationship. However, the realities of the outcome or the need to get to an outcome acceptable to the client often mean downward adjustments in the fee occur.

David may be unaware that reductions of 10% to 50% are quite common in settled cases. He also may be unaware that some firms have established in-house rules that require automatic reductions in contingency fees where the client's net would fall below the fee calculated as a percentage.

Being a Greedy Trial Lawyer does not imply a lack of ethics or an inability to deal with the realities of a fully developed case. Being the client of a Greedy Trial Lawyer does not imply an inability to discuss the attorney fee during the representation where a discussion or reconsideration may be appropriate.

April 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Drug Manufacturers' Addiction To Patents

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Does the drug industry have an addiction problem because of its reliance on the U.S. patent system?

Derek Lowe, In The Pipeline, posts:

Down With Patents, Eh?

I see that Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David Levine is about to be released. This is a provocative work, parts of which have appeared in articles over the last couple of years. The first few chapters are available online (still with some typos, I've noticed).

What makes this a bomb-throwing sort of book, from the perspective of a drug company researcher like me, is that the authors recommend abolishing the patent system as we know it. They have a chapter (PDF) on the drug industry specifically, as you'd expect. Looking it over, I find it a peculiar mix of compelling argument and things that make me hold my head and moan.

Derek's post includes the web address of the excerpts from the Boldrin and David book draft. This may be what is giving Derek the headache.

Therefore, it is reasonable to ask - how strong is the case for patents in pharmaceuticals? If the case is strong, perhaps we need to examine other industries to see if the case for patents might also be strong in those industries. In fact, we shall see that the case for patents in pharmaceuticals is weak - and so, apparently, even under the most favorable circumstances patents are not good for society, for consumers, or in this case, for sick people. Patents are good for monopolists, but that much we knew already.

April 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are You A Liberal?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

So, you are wondering if you have liberal tendencies. You suspect that your heart belongs in the liberal camp, but you are not sure. Evenstarwars, blogging at MySpace, has posted a helpful listing of modern liberal leanings.

This is just a sample of her list:

You might be a liberal if...

*You've ever said, "We really should call the ACLU about this."
*You ever based an argument on the phrase, "But they can afford a tax hike because..."
*You believe our government must do it because everyone in Europe does.
*You can't talk about foreign policy without using the word conspiracy.
*You think Ralph Nader makes a lot of sense.
*You think solar energy is being held back by those greedy oil companies.
*You've never been mugged.
*You actually expect to collect Social Security.
*You think the State of Florida should have tried to reform Ted Bundy.
*You think the Great Society has actually worked.
*You know at least one Vegan.
*You'd rather own Birkenstock than Merck Stock.
*You think public housing is great, but just NIMBY.
*You think the anti-war protestors from '60s are the real heroes.
*You actually think that poverty can be abolished.
*You think that Joan Baez had something to say.
*You admire the Swedish welfare system.

April 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Torah On Torts - Punitive Damages

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Being a Greedy Trial Lawyer I have been asked frequently how I can justify the concept of punitive damages. For years, I have simply responded that I take pleasure in seeing more money removed from the pockets of reckless, willful and grossly negligent wrongdoers. Somehow it just seems like rough justice for people or corporations who go beyond the accepted norms of our society to cause injury or harm. I assumed that everyone for hundreds of years has felt the same way. But, I never researched the matter.

I should have been reading the Torah. The TortsProf Blog informs us that "extra damages" have been sanctioned for a long time.

Punitive Damages in the Torah

From the Israel Hasbara Committee, a look at potential origins for punitive damages:

The very idea of an extra payment appears to conflict with the general rule of damages in the Torah and their guiding principle of "an eye for an eye" - that damages were meant to compensate only for the actual harm suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct. However, much like contemporary common law regimes, there were certain situations where the Torah sanctioned an increased award of damages. These extra damages ranged from the twenty percent increase described in the Parsha, to a four hundred percent premium for the then more offensive offense of the theft and slaughter or sale of another's ox.

March 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Poetry Writing Attorney Takes On The Contingency Fee

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

There once was a poetry writing attorney who got into a squabble with a personal injury attorney over the subject of the contingency fee. You can pick up on this clash of intellects and learn why poetry should not be taught in law school at f/k/a ethicalEsq's blog. The opening salvo:

Your editor got waylaid today, over at The Practice, responding to a post called "The Contingency Fee Under Attack," by p/i lawyer Jonathan Stein, who purports to care about the image of lawyers. I might have ignored the post, or left a few sentences and links to articles here, but this paragraph was part of Jonathan's piece:

"Finally, and this is what really set me off on this, the contingency fee is under attack, and it is under attack by people who just don't get it. For example, there are some poetry writing attorneys, who are not even practicing and have never handled PI work, but argue that the contingency fee (sometimes called the "standard contingency fee" which is garbage by itself) is unfair. Of course, he also criticizes value billing. Interestingly, I do not see him criticizing the hourly fee, which in some instances is $500 per hour or more. I guess he is either too old to come to terms with anything other than the hourly fee, too lazy to analyze the contingency fee in context, or too afraid of being left behind by the times."

February 17, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Give Me All The Defensive Medicine You've Got

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Day BY Day Happenings posts a fairly balanced view of tort reform. The last line quoted is one that brings to mind the claim that doctors practice defensive medicine because of the threat of being sued. I, too, want a doctor who is fearful of making a mistake in his diagnosis and treatment of my medical problem. And, I would choose more tests, more observation, more attention and more care rather than the bare minimum. Maybe that makes me both a greedy trial lawyer and a greedy patient.

I get angry every time I hear government mention "tort reform" and "frivolous lawsuits". I have been on both sides of the coin with this one and I must say that I get torn.

On one hand, over the years, being in the business we are, we have been threatened with suits for stuff we did not do or were the fault of the person making the threats. Sometimes justice prevailed, other times it has not. It gets frustrating when people expect something for nothing or want someone else to pay for their own mistakes.

On the other hand, If my husband or child were crippled or killed due to someone's negligence, I would want to make them pay as a way of punishing them. I do not want the government protecting them by capping off what they may have to pay.

People say that if we allow reform our courts will not be filled with frivolous lawsuits, people will see swifter justice and doctors will be more affordable and will not have to move away from our area because they cannot afford their insurance.

Personally, I prefer our doctors be fearful, they will be more careful.

February 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are We At The Promised Land Of Reduced Medical Malpractice Premiums Yet?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The main justification for tort reform in medical malpractice matters was to reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance so medical providers (mostly doctors) would not be driven into poverty, forced to eat cheaper steaks and take shorter ski vacations. Well, the promised benefits for the docs are not materializing. Those rates, they keep on arising. Raise your hand if this surprises you.

The latest article reporting on those pesky rising premiums:

Presently, 34 states have laws in place that specifically limit punitive damages. Some of those states as well as others (for a total of 28 states) have laws that restrict non-economic damages generally.

The Iowa Trial Lawyer's Association has the issue headlining their website, citing a GAO/Congressional Budget Office report which notes that this type of tort reform will provide medical doctors little relief from high premiums.

In Texas, which passed major tort reform initiatives in 2003, results have been slow in coming.

Nearly a year after voters approved Proposition 12, the constitutional amendment enabling tort reform, only one major malpractice carrier had reduced rates, while others still tried to increase rates. At the time, the Texas Commissioner of Insurance said about 60 percent of Texas's doctors hadn't seen any decrease in medical malpractice premiums, the Houston Chronicle reported.

February 13, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Chrysler Releases Long-Awaited Statistic

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Finally, we have a calculation we have been waiting for. Walter Olson, at Overlawyered.com, reports:

$500 per car, Chrysler says

"The cost of lawsuits adds at least $500 to the price of every vehicle, according to Chrysler Group President Tom LaSorda, who said Thursday that Chrysler is stepping up its fight for tort reform." (Dee-Ann Durbin, "LaSorda calls for lawsuit reform", AP/Saginaw News, Feb. 9).

I thank Walter and Tom for providing this helpful statistic. Perhaps they could turn their attention now to the costs incurred by each victim when someone is injured or killed because of a motor vehicle defect. My estimate would be that the number would be well above 1,000 times the Chrysler cost per vehicle. That is why I am stepping up my fight for fair and full compensation for the victims.

By the way, is there any chance that Tom could step up his efforts to build safer vehicles?

February 12, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Check Your Camera At The Hospital Door

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The Feb. 20, 2006, issue of Newsweek Magazine has an article about camera-shy hospitals. Maybe the day of the spy camera tie pin will be dawning soon in deliver rooms.

Viviana Chapman, who's due to give birth on March 1, was looking forward to capturing the event on camera. "This was going to be our memory forever," she says. But Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, like a growing number of the 2,778 U.S. hospitals with delivery rooms, is turning down patients' requests to videotape births. The official reason: privacy and safety concerns. But some say the real reason is that hospitals are afraid the tapes will be used against them in malpractice suits.

February 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Lawmakers Discover Courtroom Doors Closed To Victims Of Medical Malpractice By Tort Reform

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Surprise!! Lawmakers now believe tort reform went too far. From the Rome News-Tribune (Georgia)

Legislature reining in tort reform Lawmakers are proposing revisions to state medical malpractice legislation passed last session. A year after the Georgia General Assembly overhauled medical malpractice laws, Republican leaders who backed the measure as tort reform are crafting new bills to soften restrictions on filing claims for injuries.

Judges in at least five counties have ruled some of the provisions unconstitutional, and appeals are making their way to the state Supreme Court.

"The real issue here is access to the courts," said Rome attorney Bob Finnell. "This is making access to the courts more expensive for the average citizen."

State Sen. Preston Smith, R-Rome, drafted the original legislation as a reaction to soaring malpractice insurance rates that supporters say are driving up the cost of health care and driving doctors out of the state. Smith said he always expected some adjustments would be made.

"It's one of those complex issues we'll be re-evaluating for years as it moves through the courts," he said.

February 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Courtroom Doors Closed To Victims Of Medical Malpractice By Tort Reform

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Surprise!! Victims of clear-cut medical malpractice cannot find lawyers willing to take their cases after tort reform. From the Rome News-Tribune (Georgia)

Tort reform keeps some out of court

GAINESVILLE -- The repetition of pulling large sheets of chewing gum from an assembly line, cracking them in half and heaving them into a machine at the nearby Wrigley factory took its toll on Pat Wright.

After more than 20 years in the factory, she could hardly raise her left arm above her shoulder and couldn't bear to lie on it at night.

She finally went under the knife in 2003, but after the surgery she still felt pain. Early last year, another surgeon found the problem: about a half-dozen bright-blue metal sutures that mistakenly had been left behind in her shoulder.

Ever since, Wright has been searching for an attorney to take her malpractice case, but they all have refused, citing a new state law that puts a $350,000 cap on jury awards for a malpractice victim's pain and suffering.

Because it can easily cost $100,000 to get a malpractice case to trial, the gamble simply isn't worth it for attorneys in Georgia anymore, and some of the same lawmakers who backed the cap are wondering if the law is too extreme.

Since her surgeon found the metal sutures in her shoulder, she's appealed to at least six attorneys. Each has turned down her case, citing the new law.

Others have had problems finding attorneys, too. Willie Davis's wife, Janie Davis, died of a ruptured aorta minutes after leaving a Perry hospital, victim of what Davis says was a misdiagnosed heart condition. Since then, he's been sent packing by six lawyers unwilling to handle his case.

Atlanta attorney Joe Weeks said two years ago he would probably have represented Davis. But Janie Davis was a 68-year-old homemaker, with no lost wages to recover and no medical bills to repay. "All we had is the value of her life. And the Georgia Legislature said the value of her life is $350,000," he said.

February 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Rule Of Law Needs Lawyers

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

When I see a school of sharks or a coven of foxes in an editorial or article about lawyers my greedy defensive impulses rise to the surface. But, one recent editorial had a different tone. I could have written Lawyers, frequently, "don't get no respect no more," and that's bad. If we lose respect for lawyers, we lose respect for the law and the rule of law. It is the rule of law which stands between us and theocracy.

Editorial, Wednesday, February 1

To many people, the Connecticut committee to draw new rules and restrictions on lawyer advertising will seem like appointing a coven of foxes to tighten hen house security or asking a school of sharks to protest feeding frenzy.

Lawyers, frequently, "don't get no respect no more," and that's bad. If we lose respect for lawyers, we lose respect for the law and the rule of law. It is the rule of law which stands between us and theocracy.

In decades since lawyers began to advertise on TV -- that is, to say more about their practices or successes than can be said discreetly on a business card --regard for lawyers has not notably increased. There have certainly been other factors: the endless wrangling over Bill Clinton's definitions comes to mind, along with anecdotal evidence about malpractice suits and other horrific legal actions, and, of course, the endless shark jokes. But the status has not been helped by the few lawyers who specialize in tacky TV ads involving bags of cash. That sort of thing feeds unhealthy stereotypes.

The committee -- a "litigation of lawyers," if you will -- is considering attempts to rein the worst of the legal advertising. A legal oversight body, connected with the grievance committee, might work wonders. All the same, these horses are already out of the barn and closing the door will be a challenge.

Source

February 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Inherently Dangerous Products & Social Responsibility

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

A lawsuit filed by a San Jose man against Apple alleging that the iPod is an inherently dangerous product because it can damage hearing with even minimal daily use has generated much discussion on the blogs. Most comments say something like, "If an idiot wants to play his iPod with the volume too high who cares?" One post caught my eye. It could have been written by me, a greedy trial lawyer. The post is at Bound By Gravity.

The War on Social Responsibility We are not islands. I believe we have responsibilities to go with our rights. We have a responsibility to ensure that something we make and sell to others doesn't injure when it is used as it is reasonably expected to be used.

There is no good reason I can see for Apple's iPods to deliver 115 decibels through their earphones. To me, this sounds like a design flaw that could accidentally cause damage to individuals over the course of the product's normal use. As a result, I don't believe the company should be let off the hook simply because of our gut reaction after seeing too many frivolous lawsuits hit the press.

February 03, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Friendly Trial Lawyer Has A Nice Ring To It

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

E.J. Graff posts on the TPMCafe Blog about truth in naming. E.J. has given me an idea - might I do better as Friendly Trial Lawyer.

"Tort reform" and other Orwellian names

Clear Skies Act. Consumer Protection Act. Patriot Act. Death tax. We all know how brilliantly Orwellian this administration has been in naming its various efforts. TPMCafe contributors point them out almost daily, including Elizabeth Warren, below.

Let me add one: "Tort reform." Kate Steadman recently commented on the SOTU mention of "tort reform" as a way to improve healthcare. Of course it's not about healthcare (or trial lawyers) at all. It's about helping corporations plan how much they'll have to spend when they violate federal regulations. It's about killing off gov't regulations, once and for all.

Let me explain. Enforcing gov't regulations (equal employment regs, environmental regs, workplace safety, you name it) has been privatized. Since the gov't won't enforce them, trial lawyers have stepped in.

February 02, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Priests Say The Darndest Things

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The Pat Robertson School of Christian Discourse apparently has enrolled a Catholic priest from New Mexico.

Priest Calls 'Em as He Sees 'Em

Paraphrases Rev. 3:16 During Moment of Prophecy

Nine members of a New Mexico family are suing the local Catholic church over a funeral Mass at which the priest allegedly said their relative was going straight to hell.

The family of Ben Martinez, 80, claim that Father Scott Mansfield said he was "living in sin," "lukewarm in his faith" and that "the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell." (Sounds like Fr. Mansfield is a Caveman, to me!)

Around 200 people attended the funeral for Martinez, a local town official, at St Patrick's Parish in Chama, New Mexico last month.

Instead of immediately fasting and praying for old Ben's soul, just in case the good Father was mistaken, the Martinez family is seeking punitive and compensatory damages for severe emotional and physical suffering.

Posted at The Lair Of The Catholic Cavemen

January 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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North Carolina Business Journal Provides Balanced Report On The Work Of Trial Lawyers

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Why the case politicians and special-interest groups make that lawsuits are crippling the economy doesn't stand up. When I read that opening line in the Business North Carolina Cover Story I thought there must have been a typo. There was no typo. The article makes the case that greedy trial lawyers are probably not the problem in our tort system. In fact, it makes that case that we perform a critical service for the victims of misconduct in our society while enduring a deliberate campaign to distort our role.


January 21, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Can That Really Cause Blindness?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

When we were children some adult warned us guys that masturbation could lead to blindness. Now, we have some medical evidence that there may be some truth to the warning.

Viagra and Cialis, the drugs used to treat impotency, may be associated with an increased risk of optic nerve damage in men with a history of heart attack or high blood pressure, suggests a small study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Source

January 21, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Michael Kinsley On Liars And Lawyers

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Why Lawyers Are Liars
Apparently, It's All In a Life's Work

This is the premise of a Michael Kinsley opinion piece in the Washington Post. Michael has all the evidence he needs from the confirmation hearings of Chief Justice Roberts and Samuel Alito. It is sad that these nominees would be willing to paint the rest of us lawyers as habitual liars. I accept greedy, but not liar.

January 18, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Lawyer To Say "I Screwed Up" On His Website

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

At a time when doctors and other health care providers are being granted immunity from suit in exchange for admitting errors to patients we get word from Ernie The Attorney about a brand new lawyer who plans to voluntarily publish his mistakes on the Web. We will have to check his website from time to time to see if he succeeds in building his practice or is disbarred.

Idiosyncratic lawyer marketing

John Conry, a recent graduate of Tulane Law School (and former Peace Corps volunteer), has an interesting approach to marketing. He started a website and announces: "I will fill this page with my mistakes as I go through the process of establishing this firm." His FAQ page suggests he will do some basic legal work, including some traffic court matters, for free.

January 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Should We Lock Up Callous Health Care Workers?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Some American doctors must have moved to South Africa. This comes from City Press (South Africa)

Crooked and callous health workers should be locked up

HISTORICALLY the medical profession was a calling and not the money-making scheme it has become.

Not any more. There is a new crop of medical doctors whose only mission in life is to make money.

There is puerile competition among doctors about their display of wealth - mansions and luxury cars.

January 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctor: "Adios! Jury Duty Not For Me"

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

How not to win friends for medical profession. A doctor labels court personnel "idiots" and bugs out on jury duty.

Excerpts from The Mercury article:

NORRISTOWN -- A Lafayette Hill physician learned Monday that her time is no more valuable than her fellow citizens' when it comes to jury duty.

Calling Dr. Mary McComb self-centered and narcissistic, Montgomery County Judge Maurino J. Rossanese Jr. sentenced her to five days of community service for bolting from jury service mid-day last Tuesday.

Throughout this process, according to the jury commissioners and the judge, McComb was rude and overbearing to staff both in the jury marshaling room and in the courtroom, referring to them as idiots.

"Her whole attitude was that she was a doctor and we were impinging on her valuable time," said Rossanese, questioning who "is the idiot" since McComb reported for jury duty on the wrong day.

January 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Man From Okeechobee Has Unkind Words For Civil Justice System

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I note Tom C's post on The Road Less Traveled. In his article concerning litigation lottery Tom has lived up to his philosophy - I say what's on my mind, like it or not. I make no apologies for that. From Okeechobee, Fl, Tom has advanced his point of view without once referring to greedy trial lawyers. Instead, he has referred only to frivolous lawsuits, slimy plaintiffs, crooked lawyers and scumbag lawyers. I make no apologies when I say that Tom has spent too much time in the Everglades and needs to adjust to discourse with humans.

January 07, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Accountability" In Treatment Of Heart Attacks

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Clinical Performance Measures for the treatment of patients with heart attacks have been published by very prominent organizations. They are intended to produce not only better medical care but accountability as well. Timidly, I ask, does this mean it would be frivolous for me to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if the proper measures were not taken and a preventable death occurred?

Heart attack strikes some 865,000 Americans each year. Treating patients with scientifically proven therapies both in the hospital and at home can markedly increase the chances of survival and a return to an active life. To aid physicians in achieving this therapeutic goal, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have today released Clinical Performance Measures focusing on the most critical steps in the treatment of patients with heart attack.

"These Clinical Performance Measures define key healthcare processes for which the supporting evidence is so strong, every patient ought to have the opportunity to receive the treatment," said Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., F.A.C.C., chair of the writing committee, and the Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. "They move us from an arena of recommendations to one of accountability."

Source

January 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Is It Doctors And God...Or, Just Gods?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Does anyone else see the irony in the following news item from the IndyStar?

"The Indiana House begins hearings on bills today, including measures protecting doctors in medical malpractice claims and a license plate acknowledging God."

The priority ranking of the two items is also revealing.

January 05, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Sexual Boundary Violations With Multiple Female Patients" Is A No-No In Oregon

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

We now know what will get a doctor suspended from practice in Oregon. According to the Gresham Outlook it is "sexual boundary violations with multiple female patients." The doctor had earlier been ordered "to have a chaperone present for all exams involving female patients older than 12 while the board completed its investigation. He also was ordered to not date or have sexual relationships with patients or former patients." The order "specified that chaperones could not be a relative of the patient or a relative of Blatchford." Apparently, Romeo preferred unchaperoned romance over his license to practice medicine.

January 03, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Errors In The Medical Treatment Of Children

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Are you ready to be shocked by the wishes of parents when there is an error in the medical care of their children? A recent medical journal article reports on a study: "No data exist on parental preferences for disclosure, reporting, and seeking legal action after errors in the care of their children are disclosed...Conclusion - Regardless of severity, parents want to be informed of error. Educational interventions to improve error disclosure should emphasize the uniformity of parental preferences for disclosure, reporting, and the decreased likelihood of legal action when errors are disclosed than if discovered through other means." Hobgood C - Pediatrics - 01-DEC-2005; 116(6): 1276-86

December 31, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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With Malice Toward None

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

As we step boldly or timidly into 2006 we may want to reflect on the words of one of our nation's most impressive and compassionate presidents.

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.
Abraham Lincoln

December 31, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Indiana Supreme Court Does The Right Thing, Permits Suit After SOL Runs

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled a patient could bring a medical malpractice suit even if filed after the running of the Statute Of Limitations. The patient was not aware that malpractice was the cause of his serious vision impairment until he was already beyond the SOL. (Is it possible that his doctor failed to inform him?) More information about this decison is posted at the Indiana Law Blog. "Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard issued a dissent in the case in which he accused his colleagues of stretching the bounds of Indiana law on medical malpractice. He said it 'takes us light years away' from previous precedent and 'turns the medical malpractice statute of limitations into a very liberal rule without so much as a word about why the Indiana Constitution requires the result.'" Justice Randall apparently adheres to the legal concept that an old, stupid rule can never be made just.

December 27, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Tort Law Debate At Yale?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Is there a U.S. Constitutional right to a robust tort law system? Yes, there is. Yale has published an article by Professor John C. P. Goldberg, The Constitutional Status of Tort Law showing us where to look. In full-throated response, Philip K. Howard, A Remedy Without a Wrong, throws rocks at the whole idea. Good stuff. Nobody even mentions greedy trial lawyers. If the Professor is right, Justice Scalia is my man and Tort Reform is toast!

Continue reading "A Tort Law Debate At Yale?"

December 25, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Verdict That Really Matters

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I ran across a post by college student Brianna Richmond about her mom. It is about a verdict that really matters. Brianna helps us put life in proper perspective.

still no verdict
post surgery news: they still do not know. however, some light has been shown on the fact that they have yet to find any bad/cancer cells. hooray! so as of yet: no cancer. still a possibility, but that chances are quite slim. we will hopefully know more on tuesday.

December 24, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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NY Times Uncovers Shocking News - Some College Athletes Have Poor Academic Credentials

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The crack investigative team of the NY Times reports that University High School, a correspondence school in Miami being investigated for giving fast, high grades to qualify high school athletes for college scholarships, is going out of business Dec. 31...and the NCAA has created a panel to study correspondence high schools and other nontraditional routes to college athletic eligibility and scholarships. The move is a response to questions about the legitimacy of the academic credentials of some high school athletes. Because some college athletes are unable to read, the NCAA has been providing audio tapes of its press releases on its website.

December 23, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Greedy Neurosurgeon Sues Hospital

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I welcome Greedy Neurosurgeon Dr. Loomis from New York to the civil justice system. Jeremy Thurman, New York City Personal Injury Lawyer, posts that the good, but apparently greedy, doctor has been awarded $17 Million in his lawsuit against a hospital. It seems the hospital pantry had this wet spot on the floor and, well, you can guess the rest of the story.

Continue reading "Greedy Neurosurgeon Sues Hospital"

December 22, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Can Doctors Learn From Success? Apparently Not

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

At least one medical specialty has found improving the quality of care leads to a reduction of unnecessary injuries and, amazingly, significantly lower malpractice insurance costs. Walter Olson posts on PointOfLaw "The anesthesia specialty has enjoyed great success in recent decades in reducing its incidence of medically induced injury." Walter cites to an article in The Wall Street Journal that found anesthesiologists "pay less for malpractice insurance today, in constant dollars, than they did 20 years ago." You would think other medical specialties would see this as the Holy Grail, but Walter's post says that is not the case. Why argue with failure seems to be the motto of the other specialties.


December 20, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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There Is A Difference Between Malpractice And Bad Luck

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Is the pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice simply bad luck that we must endure without redress? Kevin T. Keith, posting on Sufficient Scrupples, tells the story of a doctor friend who confuses bad luck and malpractice. To the doctors who attribute every injury they cause by breaching the standard of care to bad luck, I suggest they should wear a "Ready To Roll The Dice?" badge. That would at least give their patients a glimpse of their approach to medicine.

December 19, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Ambulance-Chasing Off The Hook

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Good news for those of us who chase ambulances. Among the myths that bedevil rational thought is the one that blames medical malpractice claims for many of the problems in today's medical practice including high malpractice premiums. Cosmic Watercooler comments on a new book that explodes the myth. "Here is an interesting-looking book about the 'medical malpractice myth' which claims that it is not ambulance-chasing that has caused malpractice insurance woes, but malpractice itself."

December 18, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Texans Stage Shoot-Out On Tort Reform

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

This spur-to-spur set-to in print is one of the best tort reform round-ups almost on the Web. Texas Monthly writes a November 2005 article on Tort Reform; Texans for Lawsuit Reform responds to the article; Texas Monthly responds to the organization's response. My favorite shot from Texas Monthly is "In many circumstances....it [Lawsuit Reform] has effectively closed the courts to victims." Unfortunately, the entire gunfight is not readily available for free. I have pasted some excerpts below.

Continue reading "Texans Stage Shoot-Out On Tort Reform"

December 17, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Lawsuits Not Driving Up Healthcare Costs

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Lawsuit-related costs are not a big factor in rising healthcare costs. Commenting on an ABC Report on Healthcare in the U.S., Blurbomat.com comments: "The rising costs of healthcare, according to the report is based on several factors; consumers perceptions about using the latest greatest, the notion that consumers aren't spending their money when a doctor orders the most expensive meds or tests or techniques, the expensive technology whose merit is untested. While malpractice insurance is a cost, it was not mentioned in the report. So conservatives, here's a number for you. If healthcare expenditures are $1.7 trillion U.S. per year, say 1.1 billion of that is lawsuit related, that is a drop in the bucket. It takes 1,000 billion to make a trillion. I'm of the opinion that while there are certainly frivolous lawsuits, they do not represent a large portion of healthcare costs."

December 15, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Little Paranoia Can Be A Good Thing

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Derek Lowe posts an article entitled The New England Journal of Legal Immunity? In which he raises the question, "Why did the New England Journal of Medicine come out with their "expression of concern" [about withheld data in a Vioxx study] last Friday? The more I think about the situation, the more I'm coming to agree with a speculation that I first saw over at Medpundit." Derek concludes, "The journal's actions look like those of an organization that fears the legal discovery process. And why would you fear that, unless you fear that you'll be sued?" If it takes some paranoia of the legal discovery process to bring truth to the light of day might it be that Greedy Trial Lawyers perform a valuable public service?

December 15, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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A Church On Every Corner May Not Be A Bad Idea

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Before you buckle up, move to a home less than one mile from a church. Day On Torts highlights a new study which discovered that those who live less than a mile from a church are 10% less likely to be involved in automobile accidents. I am wondering if McDonald's would be willing to put a McChapel in every restaurant.

December 13, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Brilliant Discovery - Better Medical Practices Mean Lower Malpractice Costs

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

In what may be compared to the moment when the apple plopped on the head of Sir Isaac Newton, Greg Morris, chief operating officer of Aon Healthcare, reveals "We've demonstrated the relationship between quality of care and malpractice costs. The better the quality of care, the lower the liability costs. Believe it or not, from the liability industry standpoint, (this conclusion) is a big breakthrough. Now we're able to identify where doctors and hospitals aren't performing at par with their peers." Aon is one of the country's biggest risk consultants. Source

December 11, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Free-Market Fundamentalism Will Destroy America's Middle Class

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Teddy Roosevelt, we need your help. There is a political and economic belief that is dismantling efforts to use government as a protection against the sharpest edges of unfettered capitalism. David Sirota, in a posting on his Sirotablog, warns us of the impact of free-market fundamentalism. He sees the overall destruction of America's middle class unless leaders like you step forward again.

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December 08, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Hospital President Positive $7.1 M Verdict Will Not Survive Appeal

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

The headline: Boy's Parents Get $7.1 Million in Malpractice Case. The jury determined that the hospital prematurely discharged an infant without recognizing a serious medical problem that resulted in cerebral palsy. The hospital president shows his respect for the rights of the patients in his institution by stating, "I've had these people suing me for 29 years and I am confident that this verdict will not stand, cannot stand and will be overturned, if not by the appellate court then by the Illinois Supreme Court." Mr. President, with all due respect, maybe if your staff were trained to treat these people as our patients these lawsuits would not be necessary.

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December 07, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Malpractice Caps Screw Victims With Serious Injuries

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Maybe the long winters in Wisconsin give people time to think clearly. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized the blatant unfairness of capping the damages of those seriously injured by medical malpractice while permitting those with far less serious injuries to have a full recovery of their damages. How can it ever be fair to treat a quadriplegic less fairly than a victim with a shortened leg? William G. Pintas posts the news that the Wisconsin governor has now vetoed another Wisconsin bill with caps that would likely also be found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

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December 05, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Legal Bait And Switch Award To Former Justice Of Florida Supreme Court?

Category: Gaming The System

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen Grimes performed an embarrassing but enthusiastic two-step before the present justices of the Florida Supreme Court last week. He may be entitled to the Legal Bait and Switch Award for 2005. He argued that Amendment 3 to the Florida Constitution which provides a constitutional right to caps on the fees of plaintiff attorneys in medical malpractice cases really was not exactly what it was sold by its proponents to the public to be.

Mr. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Grimes, speaking for a group of lawyers with ties to doctors, insurers, and health care providers, argued there was a greater public purpose behind Amendment 3 than simply giving malpractice plaintiffs the right to pocket a larger share of lawsuit damages. He said the amendment was designed (secretly?) to help discourage "frivolous" lawsuits against doctors and to bring down the cost of medicine. (Read that to mean discourage Florida attorneys from even meeting with potential medical malpractice clients.) Current Florida Chief Justice Barbara J. Pariente said that the Grimes argument contradicted previous arguments by proponents of Amendment 3 -- as well as the plain language of the amendment -- that its main purpose was to ensure that injured patients receive a larger share of damage awards. Maybe Mr. Former Supreme Court Justice Grimes thinks it is OK to fool the public in the interests of his clients.

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November 30, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctor, Can You Spare A Minute?

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

I thought my doctor was abrupt with me because I am a Greedy Trial Lawyer. It turns out he may have just had poor communication skills or been indifferent to my problem or too busy that day. Or, he may have been repulsed by my weight. The New York Times reports that lots of non-lawyers are having problems with doctors who treat them poorly even when they are treating their medical problem correctly. I feel much better now.

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November 15, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Why Severely Injured Teenager Was Transported To Wrong Hospital

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Some things just do not make sense. Then, after investigation, they make even less sense. What happened to teenager, Mark Tsvok, on the way to the hospital in an amubulance probably cost him his life. A year later we may now know why it happened, but it still makes no sense. Mark died because hospital officials intentionally directed his ambulance to a less prepared hospital in order to benefit the second hospital.

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November 13, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Supreme Court Justices Caught Reading Foreign Law Books

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has launched an investigation into rumors that several justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have been reading foreign law. Gonzales has also learned that some of the same justices have been listening to liberal talk radio shows and have attended George Carlin performances. The most distressing trend on the Supreme Court, according to Gonzales, is that ideas and events after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution are creeping into Supreme Court Opinions.

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November 11, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Greedy Fork-Tongued Politician Of The Week - Senator Rick Santorum

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Now I see how politics works. Senator Rick Santorum publicly decries frivolous lawsuits and large verdicts. He urges caps on damages as low as $250,000. Tort reform is his mantra. Meanwhile, he supports his wife in her effort to obtain an award of $500,000 from a jury and is pleased when the verdict comes in at $350,000. I nominate Rick as the Greedy Fork-Tongued Politician of the week. And, I applaud the efforts of his wife and her own greedy trial lawyer in seeking compensation for her injuries.

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November 08, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Severe Emotional Distress - $5 Million For Each Child Of Mother Killed In Crash

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

So-called non-economic damages are often the target for those who wish to put a cap on damages. The argument is made that economic losses deserve full compensation, but the emotional impact of an injury or death is not as real or worthy of full compensation. If you want to know what severe emotional distress looks like when a mother is killed in a bloody automobile crash read these excerpts from a recent NJ appellate court decision in the case of BORYSZEWSKI v. BURKE, A-2071-02T2 (N.J.Super. 9-27-2005). The court concludes each of these children deserved the full verdict of $5 Million determined by the jury.

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November 07, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Our Healthcare System Is Broken - Badly

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

With only a few preliminary questions, I paste today's editorial by Paul Krugmen of the New York Times. How can we continue to deny the rest of America the excellent universal health coverage we provide to our retirees? Why must we be the only industrialized nation to accept huge disparities in health care? What are we afraid of?

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November 07, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Merck Is Not Flower People But What Is It?

Category: News Defused

Why did the Plaintiff lose the second of the Vioxx trials? It was not because Vioxx was a safe drug. Attorney William G. Pintas, posting on his Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog, tells us just how much Big Pharma has poisoned our society with its Show Me The Money approach to its products. He believes the jury that rendered the recent defense verdict in NJ gave the drug manufacturer a pass because Merck was just "doing buiness as usual" in America today. This may be a defeat that points the way to future victories.

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November 04, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Dirtball, Scum Bucket And Professional Jailhouse Snitch

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

Would you buy a used car from this man? Probably not. But, Virginia is going to execute an inmate this month on his very questionable trial testimony. I know a civil trial lawyer is not a criminal defense lawyer, but I am a citizen in whose name executions are carried out. Do we need an execution so badly that we are willing to vouch for the testimony of this bum? The death penalty, which I once supported, is fatally flawed.

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November 04, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Surgeon With Two Left Hands

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

John Day, on the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Law Blog, posts about a doctor who may have two left hands: What is wrong with people? Spurred on by greedy lawyers, people will sue for anything! Every little mistake seems to end up in some courtroom. This case is a fine example. This family filed a lawsuit just because a neurosurgeon operated on the wrong side of a 15 year old's brain.

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November 02, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Shredding The Truth About Medical Errors

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

There is nothing sexier than women who are on the right side. That is the motto of And Rightly So. I will not comment on the motto, even though it is worth exploring. Its most recent article is what really caught my attention. There is a feeling of eye-opening discovery to the words:

It makes sense for medical people-doctors and nurses- to have access to the data of their peers who have made mistakes. It’s how people learn. Case studies. You read a case, see where the errors occurred and make sure you don’t do the same thing. In New Hampshire, medical errors cases are shredded 30 days after a decision is made about the outcome of a licencsure issue. It would help doctors immensely, if they could understand where problems are. Malpractice issues might not be so common.

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November 02, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Outing Corporate Excess And Its Enablers

Category: Seeing Clearly Now

From the Magic City Morning Star some strong and truthful words about corporate excesses in America and the political enablers within a certain party. Stephen Crockett believes there is a backlash coming. It better come pretty soon before our entire country goes the way of Enron.

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