Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The back pages

Now that it's clear that Michael Jackson is going to stay dead and Sarah Palin is going to remain an incoherent ignoramus and pathological liar, I believe the nation can finally afford to pay attention to other issues, no doubt less important but still worthy of notice.

One you have undoubtedly not heard about is legislation which would reverse the effect of the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Riegel v Medtronic. A summary of the issues is here, in a NEJM editorial. The Court's ultimate ruling was that the 1976 Medical Device Amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibit all lawsuits against medical device manufacturers by people who are injured by devices which have FDA approval. Of course, the 1976 legislation doesn't actually say any such thing: it just says that federal regulation pre-empts state law in this area, not tort actions. But you know, those activist judges, legislating from the bench . . .

Anyway, as we know, the FDA does not do an adequate job of establishing the safety of medical devices. In particular, they rely on trials run by the manufacturers, who have an obvious conflict of interest, and the agency does not adequately oversee these trials to ensure their integrity and the reliability of the results. Oh -- you don't have to take it from me. You can take it from George W. Bush's Inspector General of HHS. So, device manufacturers can slip shoddy science past the FDA, you can be injured by their products, and you can't sue them. Thus sayeth John Roberts.

You can read a summary and text of the House and Senate bills here, at the Library of Congress's "Thomas" service. Just click on the "bill number" radio button and then search for HR1346 or S 540. BTW the site has a lot of other great features, you can find out all about what's going on in Congress there. The bill, very simply, would restore the orginal intent of Congress and overturn the Supreme Court's judicial activist intervention by restoring your right to sue if you are injured due to a faulty medical device. Power to the People! Call your representative and senators and tell them to vote yes.

And let's stop appointing activist judges like Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas who don't respect the democratic process as reflected in the plain language of the law, and instead substitute their own judgment for that express will of Congress.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

the "thomas" service is great! thanks for the link.

the justices you named were raised on "tort reform," which is marketed as "let's stop greedy lawyers and frivolous lawsuits," but it really means "if you get injured or killed by negligence, tough shit."

the courts are well-equipped to deal with frivolous lawsuits. the FDA is evidently not so well equipped to ensure safety.