In July, Netroots Nation, a network of online progressive voices, hosted a panel including scholarly authors, film directors, and lawyers with the topic:
“How Corporations and the Politicians they Fund are Fighting to Take Away our Legal Rights … and Convincing Us it’s for the Best.”
The speakers highlighted how corporations and conservative think tanks have framed personal injury law suits. Many people in America believe we are a nation of frivolous lawsuits – both in quantity and quality. Yet in reality, the number of lawsuits has been declining over the last 50 years. And if you would like to debate the quality of these suits, you better take it up with the system we have in place. Our elected system gives power to judges and juries who decides who gets what. So why all the complaining?
Propaganda produced by “you know who” has produced the image of lawyers as money-hungry sharks and injured people as whiners who are living irresponsibly. The campaign against lawsuits has been largely successful, yet now our tendency to buy into this propaganda may cost us our rights.
The Bush Administration wants to leave it up to the US Food and Drug Administration to approve our drugs and medical devices and forfeit give up our right to seek compensation through the courts if we are hurt. While some may argue that the FDA has rigorous tests that its products must pass before being put on the market, many companies slide through (some knowing the harm their product may cause, and others not).
If we take away the company’s fear of “getting sued,” what will be their motive to ensure that their product is completely safe? Not to say that everyone in these companies are evil, profit-seeking jerks; there are good people working there too who have a code of ethics and who believe safety comes first. These are the good people who use the possibility of a law suit as the hovering consequence of failing to take safety more seriously. Why would we, as consumers, want to take this argument away from them?
We ought to think about the rights we are relinquishing by doing away with our access to the courts, as well as our safety, which we are leaving up to drug companies and the imperfect FDA to decide.
Take a look at Dennis Quaid, who says he has always thought of himself as a Republican. Even he is combating the process of preemption by giving testimony in Washington DC after a near-fatal overdose of heparin because of faulty labeling and medical devices that involved his newly-born twins. If Dennis Quaid is this concerned about what is going on with our legal system, we definitely should be!
Even worse is that these same problems continue to plague Texas hospitals, with a near fatal oversdose of heparin being given to 12 premies in a single Corpus Christi hospital last month.