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September 21, 2004

The Preconceptions About Kerry Remain Unfounded

By Ron Chusid

I also appreciate the irony which Ted mentions with regards to our respective professions and political affiliation in this election. In my case it is easy to break with expectations as a physician and to support John Kerry as his policies are preferable for the medical profession, and our patients, to those of George Bush. This includes John Kerry's positions on malpractice reform. I'm sure Ted has his reasons for supporting George Bush despite his anti-lawyer and other divisive rhetoric, and there is something commendable in "feeding the mouth that bites you" for what I assume Ted sees as a greater good.

I note that Ted does misstate my position a couple of times. I assume that this is inadvertent, and will correct the record. However, I cannot help but be wary considering that George Bush's campaign is based upon distorting Kerry's positions and voting record, and then attacking the straw man it creates rather than commenting on John Kerry's actual views.

Ted declares victory, or claims I'm ready to concede defeat, based upon my comment on the other positions for which physicians support John Kerry. I noted that many of us physicians supporting Kerry were initially attracted to his campaign for a variety of reasons other than malpractice reform, but subsequently found it fortunate that " the conventional stereotypes did not apply and that it was not necessary to compromise desires to reform the malpractice situation by supporting John Kerry."

Ted divides this debate into three parts, the first of which he discussed today. Issue two gets to the heart of the matter, but Ted can save his time on argument three. It is not necessary to argue that medical malpractice reform is a significant issue as, contrary to his claim, I am in agreement on the matter. Our differences are over how this is more likely to be achieved, not that it desirable or necessary.

In attempting to make the case that Kerry would not be serious in seeking malpractice reform, Ted presented examples outside of malpractice. Talk about trying to compare apples and oranges. This does not relate to the topic at hand. as John Kerry has never claimed to be a proponent of limitations on all law suits in all situations. He does specifically, however, specifically advocate reform on malpractice as it has impact in areas such as patient accessibility to doctors and the success of his health care plan. Failing to support specific limitations in areas such as Y2K litigation does not provide reason to doubt Kerry's sincerity on those positions he does advocate, such as reforming malpractice.

Much of Ted's argument comes down to Kerry not speaking out on the subject in exactly the place or time as he (or others) desire. John Kerry follows his own schedule, sometimes even to the chagrin of those of us who support him. If saying the right thing at the right time is to be the litmus test, John Kerry passed in my book. When I had the opportunity to discuss malpractice reform with him at a private meeting with first responders in August, shortly after he chose John Edwards as running mate, Kerry made his determination to reform malpractice clear.

The choice of John Edwards did increase attacks on Kerry related to tort reform, but such attacks began well before this choice. In reviewing John Edwards career from the perspective of a physician, I did not find anything questionable as Ted accuses. The only "fault" I could find with John Edwards was his failure to review the medical literature of the future. The only reasonable standard to evaluate Edwards' suits is by medical standards of care and medical knowledge of the time. Edwards could not be faulted for being unaware of research which was not published for years following these cases. Edwards' suits have been repeatedly reviewed by political opponents and medical experts, and have held up well to such scrutiny. Face it, there was no reason for Edwards, who had the luxury of picking from many cases, to bother with frivolous suits as opposed to maximizing his chances for victory by limiting himself to valid cases.

Ted's arguments give no reason to doubt John Kerry's sincerity in planning to reform the malpractice system. In the case of George Bush, the question is not whether he will follow through with his proposals but whether such proposals will have the desired effect. George Bush's policies tend to have results which are180 degrees opposite to how they are packaged politically. In the case of George Bush's tort reform in Texas, in light of the increases in malpractice premiums ranging from 20 percent to 35 percent, as a physician my response must be, "no thank you, Mr. President." I'm not interested in looking back at Y2K legislation or creating a Sister Souljah moment. I'm interested in replacing policies which are Wrong for doctors, Wrong for patients, and Wrong for America with those of John Kerry which will provide real answers on health care and malpractice.

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Medicine and Law



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