Lobbyists on both sides duel in the medical malpractice debate

New York Times
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Few people noticed the lobbyist hovering in the background when Mary Rasar came to the Capitol last week to tell the story of her father's death.
With three Republican senators by her side, and a gaggle of reporters 
before her, Ms. Rasar recounted how her father was injured in a car accident in Las Vegas the day after high liability premiums forced the local trauma center to close. He died in an emergency room -- "a tragic, tragic story," said Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, vowing to press for caps on jury awards in malpractice cases.

"I've been working this for 20 years, and it has often seemed very close," said Linda Lipsen, who is running the trial lawyers' lobbying effort. Recently, the group brought 120 members to Washington to knock on lawmakers' doors. "It's very arduous," Ms. Lipsen said, "but we feel like if we can tell the story of the patients that our lawyers represent, the justice system should prevail."
And so, almost daily, those stories are being told. Last month, the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer group, brought 30 victims of medical malpractice to Washington, and staged a "rump hearing" before Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. The patients ran the gamut, from a man whose right lung was removed after doctors discovered a tumor in the left lung to Linda McDougal, the woman who underwent an unnecessary double mastectomy after pathologists erroneously diagnosed breast cancer.
On Wednesday, the day before the House is scheduled to vote, the trial lawyers will be bringing Ms. McDougal back to the Capitol, for an appearance with the minority leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle, and his counterpart in the House, Nancy Pelosi. But Mr. Nixon, the hospital lobbyist, is ready. He is bringing back Ms. Rasar, for an appearance with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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