Trial Lawyers & the Death of Personal Responsibility

It has indeed been a while since I last posted an entry on this blog; here I must apologize for being so “incommunicado” of late. I have been dealing with a couple of health issues, most noticeably an extremely sore left wrist. This is most likely fallout from my accident last March which left me with a severely fractured radius and ulna in my left arm at the elbow. Although that appears have healed quite nicely I continued to have minor pain in the left wrist even after OT. And, in keeping with my understanding that I am my own worst enemy, I then spent time in October digging a trench across my driveway to bury a new electrical line and splitting firewood. This apparently really irritated the wrist and from very early November on it has become more and more tender and less usable. I have seen my surgeon and underwent numerous x-rays as well as a bone scan all of which were inconclusive. For the time being I have the left forearm in an AirCast 24 x 7 and have ceased doing anything which really irritates the wrist. Sadly, typing is one of those things. Thankfully, I decided to try Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking (version 13) and to this day I remain very impressed with the application! It has allowed me to continue typing and its accuracy is improving the more I use it. Without this software I would be unable to type anything except the shortest emails or text messages unless I were to resort to typing with just my right hand.

Regardless, with the start of this New Year I’ve been slowly collecting my thoughts on a number of topics for potential subjects in this blog. Of course, this lousy Alaskan weather has provided me with much frustration as we are now at the tail end of my 3rd consecutive “winter that wasn’t”. But then I’ve railed about this in many previous writings. But something that really got me going while watching TV last week has continued to remain a thorn in my awareness; in this case I’m speaking of the innumerable advertisements for trial lawyers chasing money for medical device/drug settlements. Is it just me or during any given 2 to 3 minute commercial span are we barraged with at least one ad if not more? In the past I largely ignored them but for some reason last week I actually paid a little more attention to just what it is they are advertising. And that is when my anger and frustration truly began to build!
Being largely libertarian in my views it runs counter for me to even consider pushing for legislation to corral any legal activity yet that is exactly what I find myself considering. I know we’ve all heard of ‘ambulance chasers’ and their sleazy pursuit of money; they purport to be looking out for victims when in truth they are interested only in lining their pockets. And let me say up front that I recognize there are good, honest and caring trial lawyers. However, I truly feel a majority do not fall into this category. And nowhere are these sleazy, money-grubbing vultures more prevalent than in attempting to prosecute the medical and pharmaceutical industries. In business must be indeed good given the huge volume of expensive television advertising!

Having a bit of a scientific bent to my education, and that is particularly true in the area of biological sciences, I was truly shocked when I paid attention to exactly what these legal firms are attempting to prosecute. Just to get started, let’s look at exactly what these firms are attempting to do. Even with the extremely laborious approval processes required by FDA for any device or drug to be used in human medicine the very nature of these products virtually guarantees there will be issues. For all of the science and experimentation along with trials that are involved in bringing any new drug, implant or device to the market they cannot cover every possible situation. Therefore, any new medical product is very likely to cause some health issues for a small number of people using them. Yet as soon as there are any verified medical complications from any new drug, implant or device the seedy trial lawyers are on it like a duck on a June bug. Their advertising whips up hysteria and would make one believe that the medical industry is really out to harm people rather than help them. And this is where the initial disconnect occurs.

Somehow, the trial lawyers do not want us to remember that we may have been prescribed a new drug or implant or device as a matter of saving our lives. Even if it’s not to the extent of saving a life, these new items could very well dramatically improve the quality of life for those who use them. Any competent physician will go to lengths to explain potential issues with any new drug, implant or device before recommending their patient consider employing them. Because of this, a patient should go into this decision being as well-informed as possible. And ultimately it remains the patient’s choice. Indeed, this is the responsibility of the patient to be fully informed. But here is where the sleazy trial lawyers are supporting what I believe is a very destructive perspective; they act as though the patient has no accountability in his or her own health. This is flat out wrong!! As adults, we are responsible to ourselves as well as accountable for our actions. If we choose to move ahead with a treatment that involves something brand-new or cutting edge and we have been educated as to potential issues than that choice is ours along with our physicians. In fact, given the availability of information today it is actually easy to educate one’s elf regarding such a situation. Yet the damn trial lawyers would have us believe it is not our responsibility but rather the responsibility of the manufacturer. Nothing could be further from the truth but then these folks rarely deal in “the truth”.

However, these worthless individuals are doing far more harm than just what I mentioned above. Healthcare in America is one of the top 3 topics in politics today regardless of philosophy or party affiliation; everyone knows the system is broken. Without question there is plenty of blame to be assigned to everyone and everything in this realm. But just stop and considered this for a moment: every time a medical company brings a new drug, implant or device to market they have a huge fund set up because they know when there are any issues whatsoever the trial lawyers will be there to exploit them. The amount of money in these funds is staggering; it is often billions of dollars. While I do have many issues with the medical industry I can also understand that having to keep these funds available for what is now almost inevitable legal action adds enormous amounts to the cost of doing business. These same firms regularly spend billions and billions of dollars each year on research and development; this alone adds huge costs to any product that does make it to market. But having to set aside such huge amounts of money to handle litigation also adds an awful lot to the cost of our healthcare. I am not an apologist for the medical industry and certainly not the pharmaceutical industry. As I stated earlier there’s plenty of blame to go around for the current mess we call healthcare. But from my perspective, so many of the parasitic trial lawyers exist only to line their own pockets under the guise of protecting victims from the evil, capitalistic worshiping medical industry.

Sadly, based on the number of TV advertisements for such legal firms, there must be a lot of folks out there who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. I’m probably being a bit too hard on the trial lawyers in general but just ask anyone who is gone through a divorce in a court of law. There’s an old saying that speaks exactly to this; “the only winners in a divorce case are the lawyers”. One could take the aforementioned, remove “divorce”, replace it with “medical malfeasance” and the truth would remain. And that is just a real shame. After having really paid attention to these trial lawyer-based groups prosecuting what they claim is medical malpractice I have a new appreciation of something I heard while living in Southeast Michigan. Question: what is a busload of trial lawyers at the bottom of Lake Michigan? Answer: a good start!

So what could be done to improve this situation? Without question, we need some kind of regulations regarding the filing of class action lawsuits driven mainly by trial lawyers against the medical industry. It frustrates me no end that I find myself advocating for more government regulations! But I really do believe that for us to honestly fix our current healthcare disaster a piece has to involve controlling lawsuits and especially the amount of profit they bring in for the trial lawyers. But beyond that we, the people of this great country, need to once again embrace personal responsibility and accountability. If most of us did truly value integrity and practice such mores there would be far fewer trial lawyers making huge sums of money on the back of our medical industries.