July 9, 2004
Can anyone in the Times newsroom spell 'objective'?By Ed Lasky
The New York Times is now trumpeting the 'dream team' of John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards. However, strangely enough, on January 4th the Grey Lady ran a front—page article that disparaged him as a greedy Magus of the courtroom, who conned compliant juries with junk science and emotional manipulation.
Edwards has not practiced his type of law for the past 5 years he has served in the Senate. It would seem paradoxical that the Times decided to character—assassinate him then, but now finds him either worthy of forgiveness for his sins, or possibly not guilty of any sins at all. But there is a simple explanation: back in January the mandarins of the mainstream media preferred Kerry as the Democratic Presidential candidate, and accordingly turned their destructive prose on his challenger, John Edwards. Today, the party line embracing the Kerry cause now extends to his running—mateEdwards. Hence, the sudden redemption.
The entire Times article can be found here. But here is a brief synopsis.
The sarcastic tone of the article begins in the first line when the authors talked of John Edwards standing before a jury while he 'channeled the words of an unborn baby girl' to them. I doubt the New York Times employs psychics as journalists so this use of 'channeling' was obviously a snide clue to readers that Edwards does not enjoy the favor of the august editors and writers of the Times.
The article continued to disparage Edwards while noting,
he sifted through several dozen expert witnesses to find one who would attest to his claims, and opposed state legislation that would have helped all families with brain—damaged children and not just those few who win big malpractice awards.
In other words, he waited to find someone who would agree with him and tell the jury what Edwards wanted them to hear. But he just didn't sift through potential witnesses. He also is greedy since the article goes on to say,
over time, Mr. Edwards became quite selective about cases. Liability had to be clear, his competitors and opponents say, and the potential award had to be large.
This is another way of saying that he is an ambulance—chaser who was on the lookout for large legal fees. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Edwards was able to win more than $150 million based on just 63 lawsuits.
But wait. Edwards didn't just shop for expert witnesses, or shop for plaintiffs whose tragedies he could milk for all they were worth (to him), he also shopped for the right type of junk science to persuade juries to grant him millions (with some left over for his clients).
The Times took quite a bit of ink to explode the myth that obstetricians are usually responsible for incidents of cerebral palsy. This is a controversial area of malpractice but apparently (in the Times' own words)
studies indicate that in most cases, the disorder is caused by fetal brain injury long before labor begins.
The New York Times' judgment regarding this manipulative use of junk science receives considerable support. Furthermore, the steps that doctors have had to take to protect themselves from these lawsuits have resulted in a staggering increase in medical costs. Even worse, some of these precautions may have actually caused more harm than good. The Times notes,
studies have found that the electronic fetal monitors now widely used during delivery often incorrectly signal distress, prompting many needless Caesarean deliveries, which carry the risks of major surgery.
Needless to say, these Caesarean deliveries are also themselves undoubtedly a major source of malpractice suits. Clever, these lawyers.
Of course the costs of these malpractice awards, unnecessary procedures, and increased insurance costs are certainly a major factor in the very high and rapidly escalating cost of medical care, a problem that Edwards and Kerry have made a major campaign issue. Once again, we must notice that these lawyers sure are clever.
Tragically, all this abuse of doctors has lead to an exodus from the profession of medicine. In a number of states, highly—qualified obstetricians must pay over $100,000 a year for malpractice insurance, in addition to the many other costs of running a practice. There may not be enough left over after expenses to earn a living. Think about that when your loved one becomes pregnant and you have difficulty finding an obstetrician.
John Edwards displayed great discernment in choosing cases with babies who would need a lifetime of care (expensive), as opposed to those who died (too cheap); choosing experts who would interpret science in ways favorable to his desired conclusions, rather than skeptical of them; choosing jurors who would be big—hearted (with other peoples' money) and not think about the consequences for medical costs; and in making the sorts of appeals which would tug on the heartstrings of the empanelled jurors.
But do we, as Americans facing life—and—death challenges of our own, want this sort of discernment in our top leaders?