The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice & Democracy

National Consumer Groups Announce Urgent New Ads Asking Congress to Oppose Medical Malpractice Limits


Seven national consumer and health organizations announced today they
have placed ads in opinion-leading Washington D.C. publications
declaring strong opposition to any provisions in the health care bill
that would limit the legal rights of patients injured by medical
malpractice, including measures that would force them into unfair
"alternative" legal systems. The ads run October 1, 2009.

The advertisements, on behalf of Alliance for Justice,
ConsumerWatchdog, Center for Justice & Democracy, National
Consumers League, National Research Center for Women & Families,
National Women's Health Network and Public Citizen, point out that up
to 98,000 people die every year from medical errors in U.S. hospitals.
They state, "Congress should focus on improving patients safety and
reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from
accountability and saddling taxpayers with the cost.... Health care
reform cannot be accomplished by taking away the legal rights of
patients who are injured through no fault of their own, or reducing the
accountability of those who commit wrongdoing."

The current Senate Finance Committee health care bill contains language
encouraging states to explore alternative litigation systems. Moreover,
some conservative members of Congress have stated they will try to
further limit the legal rights of patients with "caps" on compensation
and other "tort reforms." In a September 22 letter to the Senate
Finance Committee, the groups wrote "schemes that place undue burdens
on injured patients, or require that cases be heard in informal
settings, tilt the legal playing field heavily in favor of insurers
that represent health care providers. These measures are fundamentally
unfair to patients."

Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice &
Democracy, said, "The arguments used to support liability restrictions
are unfounded. Medical malpractice insurance claims and premiums have
both been trending downward for years. Premiums and claims are each
less than one percent of health care costs. The best way to reduce
malpractice deaths, injuries, claims and lawsuits is to reduce medical

"America is suffering from an epidemic of medical errors," said David
Arkush, a program director at Public Citizen. "Reducing medical errors
is not difficult, and it would save scores of thousands of lives and
billions of dollars. If Congress wants to serve the American public
rather than special interest groups like doctors and insurance
companies, then it should focus on improving patient safety, not
stripping patients of their legal rights."

"Innocent Americans injured by cost-cutting hospitals and negligent
doctors should not be a political sacrifice in the quest for health
care reform," said Carmen Balber, Washington Director for Consumer
Watchdog. "State malpractice damage caps and other limits on liability
for negligent health care providers have locked injured patients out of
court, degraded the quality of health care and denied justice to too
many families."

A copy of the ad can be found at or