David Randolph Smith

Bush/Cheney Fixation on "Junk Lawsuits"

When President Bush appears at "rallies" of the faithful he invariably blames "junk lawsuits" for, well, just about everything. Recall his rather odd contention that because of these suits OB-GYNs could not practice "their love with women all aross this country." This absurd lapse in thought and mentation is not an isolated event. On September 7th Bush blamed "Junk Lawsuits" for the weak job market. In West Virginia on September 10th, Bush blamed "junk lawsuits" for the increased costs of health care. Dick Cheney has also blamed the flu vaccine shortage on lawsuits. But as Bush and Cheney decry lawsuits the facts are otherwise.

The consumer watchdog group, Public Citizen, states:" President Bush is leaving this year’s campaign trail littered with distortions, exaggerations and patently false statements about the impact of consumer lawsuits on the nation’s economy and health care." Public Citizen published a fact sheet, "President Bush Dis-Torts the Truth About Lawsuits’ Impact on Health Care and the Economy" that debunks the unfounded rhetoric and falsehoods routinely espoused by Mr. Bush and Dr. Bill Frist.

Ironically, when President Bush appears at these rallies he often is accompanied by a doctor who was supposedly driven from practicing medicine by "junk lawsuits." But then, after Bush leaves town, the facts begin to emerge.

For example, President Bush traveled to Youngstown, Ohio, to talk about health care, and before long he was reprising his complaint about "junk and frivolous" malpractice suits, which he said are discouraging good doctors from practicing medicine. To bolster his argument Mr. Bush introduced a local doctor, Compton Girdharry, to an audience at Youngstown State University. Dr. Girdharry, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said he had been driven from a practice of 21 years by the high cost of malpractice insurance. If Mr. Bush was looking for an example of a doctor who was victimized by frivolous lawsuits, Dr. Girdharry was not a great choice. Since the early 1990's, he has settled lawsuits and agreed to the payment of damages in a number of malpractice cases in which patients suffered horrible injuries. A White House spokesman said the president had not been aware of the problems in Dr. Girdharry's background. "Had this doctor provided that information," the spokesman said, "he would not have been at that event.".

In Missouri President Bush bemoaned the fate of a neurosurgeon supposedly driven from practice by junk lawsuits. Afterwards, the facts came to light that this Columbia, Missouri neurosurgeon routinely testifes for plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases as an expert and corrected President Bush by saying: "I was not run out of business by lawsuits. I decided to retire because of the jump in my insurance premium, and there's not a direct correlation with lawsuits against me."