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Jan. 24, 2007

Bush Misleads Nation in State of the Union in Need for Medical Malpractice Limits

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

Last night during his annual State of the Union address, President Bush said, “[T]o protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we need to pass medical liability reform. But as we all too often find with President Bush, this policy recommendation is based on misinformation.

In 2006, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health published findings that revealed that “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”  In fact, new research by Public Citizen demonstrates that the real crisis in medical malpractice is not one of so-called “junk lawsuits” but one of a serious lack of physician oversight – only six percent of doctors account for more than 58 percent of all malpractice claims. Since 1991, preventable medical errors cause between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year in hospital settings.

In last year’s State of the Union, President Bush promoted this policy of limiting patients’ legal rights by suggesting that access to ob-gyn care is threatened – a cynical attempt at frightening women and families. But earlier this week, Public Citizen revealed that the president’s statements were, once again, based on misinformation. The truth is, access to ob-gyn care is improving, even in states the American Medical Association claims are “in crisis.”

The American people are fed up with political grandstanding based on misinformation that is intended only to protect wealthy corporate interests. It’s time the president and Congress seek real health care reforms – based on facts – that will protect the health, safety and rights of patients in our country.

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