Medical Malpractice Survivors Decry Possible Stripping Of Rights In President’s Health Care Plan

Monday, June 15, 2009

For Release:
June 15, 2009

Contact: Joanne Doroshow or Andy Hoffman
(212) 267-2801
; cell (917) 548-5263


NEW YORK – Sixty-four survivors of medical malpractice from 21 states sent a letter to President Obama today expressing extreme concern that the rights of medical malpractice victims have become a “political bargaining chip” in the President’s efforts to sell his health care plan, and that their rights may be stripped away as a result.  Reports now indicate that the President supports measures that would drastically limit injured patients’ rights to trial by jury by allowing biased medical societies or politicians to make liability decisions.  The group of malpractice survivors have requested a meeting with President Obama to express dissatisfaction with the President’s willingness to include far-reaching medical malpractice limits in his national health care proposal.

The survivors are working with the national consumer group Center for Justice & Democracy in trying to get their voices heard.  CJ&D Executive Director Joanne Doroshow said, “Taxpayers have already been asked for billions of dollars to rescue Wall Street banks.  Now they may be asked to give up their constitutional rights.  What’s next?”

Donna Harnett, a Chicago resident whose son, Martin, was severely brain-damaged at birth due to delivery errors, said, “Any proposal that would limit the right to trial by jury would be devastating to families like mine who have suffered catastrophic injuries.  Moreover, it will do nothing to expand health coverage or reduce health care costs.”

“I am very disappointed that the President is considering measures that would put patients' rights in jeopardy.  I certainly hope that he accepts our request to meet with families like ours, who have had lives ruined and lost loved ones to medical negligence,” said Michael Bennett of Baltimore, Maryland.  Mr. Bennett’s father, Mark Bennett, died after being exposed to six types of bacteria while in the care of a Baltimore-area hospital.

“As survivors of medical negligence, we believe that our voices should be heard in any discussion that could result in curbing the legal rights of seriously injured patients,” said Dylan Malone of Seattle, Washington, whose son, Ian, died several years after being severely brain damaged due to delivery-related errors.

The text of the letter follows:



June 15, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss the issue of medical malpractice, which news reports now indicate may be part of your national health care proposal as a political “bargaining chip.”

We are part of a group of survivors of medical negligence who are concerned that our voices be heard in any discussion that could result in curbing the legal rights of seriously injured patients. We are extremely concerned that the rights of medical malpractice patients may be stripped away as part of your national health care proposal.  This includes restrictions on the rights of catastrophically injured patients to have access to the courts.

People like us and our families certainly do not feel as though doctors and hospitals practice too much “defensive medicine,” or that lawsuits against negligent providers are frivolous, or that there is any justification for eliminating the right to jury trial in medical malpractice cases. Patients deserve to have an unbiased judge and jury, which have heard all the facts and weighed all the evidence, decide if care is negligent and what the compensation for their loss should be. That decision should not be made by political officials or biased medical societies.

Further, tackling medical malpractice issues will not bring down health care costs according to every government study that has looked into this.  The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed, “malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of [health care] spending.”  Blaming so-called “defensive medicine” for growing health care costs is also bogus.  Listen to our stories and you will understand why no credible government study supports the notion that “defensive medicine” is a problem.  Most recently, the General Accountability Office harshly criticized evidence continuously cited by the American Medical Association that the tort system encourages defensive medicine.

Nobody appreciates the need to have competent doctors available to serve in every area of this country more than people like us who have been patients.  But making it more difficult for us to bring legitimate cases against negligent providers will make matters worse and certainly not solve this country's real medical malpractice crisis, which now costs the lives of more than 98,000 people each year.  It will only reduce accountability in the system and re-victimize people who are already victims.

Please contact our representative in New York, Joanne Doroshow, from the consumer group the Center for Justice & Democracy, to follow up on this request. You can reach her at (212) 267-2801 or email her at [email protected]. Thank you for your consideration.


Alan Apter
Duluth, MN

Rebecca Ball
Thompson, CT

Michael Bennet
Baltimore, MD

Earlene Burney
Clarksville, TN

Sharon Caulder
Chesterfield, SC

Bill Collins
Norwalk, CT

Elizabeth Colloty
Ridgefield, CT

Linda Debenedictis
Norwood, MA

Ellen Delisio
Middletown, CT

Mathy Milling Downing
Laytonsville, MD

Vernon and Shawnna Gardner
Lewellen, NE

Lisa and Michael Gourley
Valley, NE

Steve Govoni
Rowayton, CT

Cindy and Bruce Gustafson
Littleton, CO

Leslie Haag
Bacliffe, TX

Donna Harnett
Chicago, IL

Helen Haskell
Columbia, SC

Carole and Joe Hemmelgarn
Highlands Ranch, CO

Jack Hickey-Williams
Newtown, CT

Vera Holmes
Irmo, SC

Cynthia and Justin Iriondo
South Windsor, CT

Bobbie Jenke
Santa Rosa, CA

Shigeru and Sandra Katada
McKinney, TX

Sherry Keller
Conyers, GA

Amy Kyllonen
Prior Lake, MN

Mary Ellen and Patrick Ladd
West Hartford, CT

Gary Lampman
Hendersonville, TN

Paul Lyon
Kingston, PA

Dylan and Christine Malone
Everett, WA

Susan Manganello
Newington, CT

Tina Minasian
Roseville, CA

Rebecca Martins
Warren, ME

Justin Mattes
Woodcliffe Lake, NJ

John McCormack
Pembroke, MA

Vicki McDonough
Commerce City, CO

Joe Mungai
Elgin, IL

Marie Naish
Tarrant, AL

Michael Nystrom
Mystic, CT

Patti O'Regan, ARNP, ANP, NP-C, PMHNP-BC
Port Richey, FL

Kathy, Scott, and Steve Olsen
Chula Vista, CA

Anetta Parker
Houston, TX

Carolyn Passero
Westport, CT

Jean Rexford
Redding, CT

Myra Richardson
Carson, WA

Ruben Rodriquez
Yonkers, NY

Deb Shaw
Half Moon Bay, CA

Patty Skolnik
Denver, CO

Julie Smith
Reidville, SC

Jay and Sue Stratman
Chesterfield, MO

Ken and Brenda Stoltz
Leesburg, VA

Bart Windum
Boulder, CO

Suzie Zionkowski
Aiken, SC


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