U.S. Senate staff members arriving at work by subway this month were greeted by signs proclaiming that “98,000 patients may die” through medical malpractice.
On a single day in October, lawmakers received visits from more than 70 victims of doctors’ errors and the attorneys who represented them. And the trial lawyers’ political action committee gave members of the Democratic congressional majority more money than all but two other PACs.
“Patients have a lot of influence with the Congress,” said Linda Lipsen, an AAJ vice president.
The Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based consumer group, brought Kathy Olsen of Chula Vista, California, to tell Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Bob Fillner, two Democrats from her home state, about her then-2-year-old son, who suffered blindness and cerebral palsy from a brain abscess not discovered because the hospital refused a requested scan. A jury awarded $7.1 million for pain and suffering, though a judge reduced that to the state’s $250,000 cap.
“Who would have thought the law wouldn’t have protected a 2-year-old who got hurt like this,” Olsen said.
Democratic lawmakers also heard from Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa, a former trial lawyer who helped lead the debate against caps. He said Congress shouldn’t substitute its judgment for that of voters.
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