Thursday, April 24, 2014



The correct answer is when they are awake and can give consent. The next question is why aren't they already tested when they go to court especially when they represent known felons, drug traffickers, or persons indicted for murder? The correct answer is because lawyers write laws to suit themselves.

A medical tech who was reportedly addicted to drugs and who stole fentanyl that was expected to be used for patients awaiting cardiac surgery caused the death of two patients and got a few dozen others infected with hepatitis C when he altered the contents of their syringes, stole the fentanyl and replaced it with saline that turned out to be infected. That bloke is now doing 39 years in prison. As this man drifted from job to job, protected from having to reveal his erratic job history, he was protected by law. Wrongful administration of fentanyl was also associated with Michael Jackson's death. This time the culprit was a physician. Now comes an effort to correct this situation, an effort, we believe that is steeped in hypocrisy and swimming in money. 

In California we expect the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act to qualify for the initiative process. The goal is to alter MICRA's (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act) $250,000 ceiling cap on non-economic damages so that malpractice lawsuits become more lucrative for trial lawyers. So far CAPP (Californians Allied for Patient Protection) have thwarted the trial lawyer's goal. Proponents point out that there is currently no law that requires doctors to take random drug tests. They don't mention that there is also no law that requires lawyers to take random drug tests. Proponents argue that surgeons don't have to be tested randomly before operations but imply that that should be done. The same proponents don't mention that lawyers who are trying to put someone to death or save someone from the hangman's noose are also not tested. Why not? Both the surgeon and the trial lawyer are involved in death-struggles although, truth be told, it's the lawyers who as prosecutors are allowed to strive to put someone to death and may win kudos for so doing. But now the lawyers, especially those whose specialty is malpractice, want to impose random testing on doctors while continuing to exempt themselves. The idea, they say, is to stop the abusive overprescribing that in the case of 10 year old Troy and his 7 year old sister, Alana, was linked to their being killed by a drugged driver who had overdosed on prescription medication.

Trouble is that this noble concept has been hijacked by the trial attorneys who for years have been trying to increase malpractice liability in the hopes of higher payouts and better paydays for themselves. A recent study by the Berkeley Research Group reported declining malpractice claims and lower awards. This trend would be turned around were the Troy and Alana Pack Safety Act enacted into law -- one estimate is that attorneys would win about $127,500 more on average than they do now were the initiative to succeed. That explains why the ballot summary for this initiative conceals the initiative's true purpose, not patient protection, but lawyer enrichment.

So why not amend the Troy and Alana Pack Safety Act so that it also includes lawyers, e.g., random drug testing for any lawyer within a few hours of a scheduled court appearance, or anytime a lawyer is arguing a death penalty case? Lawyers, from time to time, steal from client's trust funds, sometimes to support drug habits, so why not also test lawyers randomly?

Sometimes lawyers miss statutes of limitations. Test all of them who do that. Sometimes lawyers create false documents or prosecutors fail to turn over exculpatory data to defendants. Test all of them, too. In cases where a wrongful prosecution has led to wrongful imprisonment, why not skip the drug testing and have the prosecutor finish up the sentence that was wrongfully imposed on the hapless defendant? Some lawyers, some doctors, and even some judges benefit from loopholes in the system.

If we plug these loopholes by amending the Troy and Alana Pack Safety Act, then, just maybe, with a level playing field, the proponents would improve their credibility with the public. At the moment, the initiative is tilted more to trial lawyers' enrichment than to anybody's safety.

Late flash: the trial lawyers' initiative to award themselves increased malpractice payments has been designated Proposition 46 while the campaign against it, which we support, will be known as the No on 46 Campaign.


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