I previously wrote about the Chamber of Commerce’s agenda following the mid-term elections (Your Civil Justice Rights Are Still Under Attack). Now, the American Medical Association (AMA) has weighed in with its plans to continue the attack on your civil justice constitutional rights.
Cecil B. Wilson, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the AMA, is quoted in the December 4, 2006 issue of the AMA’s news publication as favoring “a variety of ideas, such as special health courts, expert review panels and arbitration” rather than allowing people who have been injured by medical malpractice to have their constitutional jury trial.
Think about what that means – “special courts” for doctors. That means that while every person injured by either a negligent truck driver, property owner or contractor would have the person’s negligence tried by a jury of their peers from the county where they live, but doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice cases would get special treatment in our courts. The AMA clearly doesn’t want its members to face a jury of your peers – just as every other negligent person must do – to determine if there was medical malpractice. The AMA has been joined in this campaign by a group with a confusing name: Common Good. Don’t confuse Common Good with Common Cause, the organization that has led the charge for the little guy, “holding power accountable” since 1970. Even a cursory scan of Common Good’s Web site shows that its board is heavily skewed toward lawyers from Covington & Burling – a huge New York and international law firm with multinational companies as clients – as well as corporate bigwigs. They even have Senator Bill Frist’s brother, Thomas, on their advisory board. He’s the brother who is #451 on Forbes’ list of billionaires – that’s right, billionaires with nine zeroes. Remember, the Frist family made its fortune running hospitals. Is it really any surprise that an organization that would have a Frist on the board would look for ways to help their family business?
Mandatory arbitration is just as bad. Let me be clear – anything that cuts into your constitutional right to a jury trial reduces the rights you were granted by the Founding Fathers. In Pennsylvania, we tried mandatory arbitration with the Health Care Services Malpractice Act in the 70s until it was held unconstitutional.
Finally, expert review panels are not necessary. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, anybody who wants to pursue a medical malpractice case already has to have a written confirmation of the merit from a physician before you can proceed in court.
Even when you think that changes in Washington have helped protect your rights, you must remain alert for insidious efforts to limit your right to sue.