Edwards as VP would be a powerful ally to the opponents of tort reform

LETTER — Posted Aug. 23, 2004

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Regarding "Edward's trial lawyer past raises red flags for doctors" (Article, Aug. 2):

While I certainly understand the position of doctors who are Kerry supporters, that focusing exclusively on Sen. John Edwards' background as a trial attorney smacks of single-issue politics, I would also argue that no issue strikes quite so close to home as one's livelihood.

And while I would also agree with the physician quoted in your article that a Kerry-Edwards' victory in November won't in any way affect anyone's near-term risk of being sued, it will, in all likelihood, have a chilling effect on the progress of tort reform.

I'm not one of those who blames the tort crisis entirely on the plaintiff attorneys. Like the old comic-strip character Pogo, I believe, "We have met the enemy, and they are us" -- a society that absolves itself of personal responsibility, and that believes that a scapegoat (preferably one with deep pockets) can be found on whom to blame all of one's misfortunes and that there is no such thing as an "accident." But the trial lawyers have all too happily reinforced this sensibility as they have ridden their gravy train all the way to the bank.

With Edwards in the vice president's mansion and installed as president pro tempore of the Senate, thus able to break all tie votes, the wealthy trial attorneys' lobby will have a powerful ally in their intransigent resistance to all efforts at tort reform.

As a former Pennsylvania surgeon who watched my 70-year-old group practice (and my buy-in) dissolve because of rising expenses mostly attributable to skyrocketing malpractice premiums, uprooting my family and flushing 10 years' of hard work and dedicated service to my patients and my hospital down the tubes, I find the thought of electing a Kerry-Edwards ticket unconscionable. If the physicians you quoted in favor of them had walked a mile in my shoes, they might reconsider their support of a man, who, for his entire career prior to becoming an elected official, had actively sought to eat their lunch.

Keith R. Stephenson, MD, Blacksburg, Va.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/08/23/edlt0823.htm.

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