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September 24, 2004

A disappointing turn in the debate

By Ted Frank

Imagine if an expert witness trumpeted a study claiming to show that polio vaccinations are ineffective; in response, a doctor notes that the study shows no such thing because it includes numerous unvaccinated individuals in the statistics of the vaccinated. Would Dr. Chusid be persuaded by an expert who responded by pooh-poohing the counter-argument because it was developed by the medical establishment? I should think that a defense of the plainly flawed methodology of the Weiss Ratings report against my rebuttal (and, again, Dr. Chusid makes the mistake of relying on median figures for Kansas, rather than mean--why is it relevant that a newspaper quoted the flawed Weiss Ratings report numbers verbatim?) would be more important than noting that a group consisting of insurers owned by doctors and dentists made the same criticisms first. (For what it's worth, I am not a parrot; I agree with only some of the PIAA's criticisms, and make arguments only when they are consistent with my independent analysis.) Dr. Chusid is trained to look at questions scientifically, and the resort to the sophistry of the ad hominem in response to a falsifiable proposition is beneath him.

Similarly, the careful reader will note that I have not engaged in a battle of the quotes. I am relying on studies by political institutions and in the medical and economic literature, and have discussed quotes only where necessary to rebut incorrect claims that a quoted organization or individual said something they didn't. (For example, contrary to Dr. Chusid's denial, official Kerry-Edwards speeches have explicitly sought to shift blame for rising malpractice insurance rates from the actions of attorneys to the "declining stock market." In fact, malpractice insurance rates are directly related to payouts on malpractice claims.)

Finally, it is disappointing that, immediately after I note that the term "frivolous lawsuit" is unhelpful to the discussion because of the wide variety of potential meanings for the term in the law and in common usage, Dr. Chusid simply repeats the trope that the Kerry plan will "address[] the problem of frivolous suits." Perhaps, but perhaps not. I await, and I imagine hundreds of thousands of doctors await, learning what Dr. Chusid and the Kerry-Edwards campaign consider a "frivolous lawsuit," because it will do much to determine whether the Kerry-Edwards plan will address the lawsuits that actually concern doctors, or whether it is a Potemkin reform meant to blunt criticism of the water Senators Kerry and Edwards have carried for the plaintiffs' lobby. I also await a rebuttal of my analysis why caps reduce the types of unfair lawsuits that most concern doctors (as preliminary anecdotal evidence in Texas shows), rather than the bald assertion that they will not. I look forward to those discussions.

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.