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Patients Pay for Caps on 'Pain and Suffering'

June 10, 2005

Re "The Legal Sting of Pain and Suffering," Commentary, June 5: Stephen D. Sugarman must think himself quite a guy for offering to increase by $150,000 the president's cap for court-awarded "compensation" for malpractice-caused lives of blindness, paralysis and suffering. Wow! $400,000 for having stolen from you every pleasure we take for granted, including supporting your kids or maybe even holding or seeing them.

Sugarman extols courts that "do not see that making a victim 'whole' is the proper function of tort law." There is no such thing as "make whole," not even "make livable." No amount of millions will make whole or restore lives so violated.

The point of pain and suffering is that there must be something like consequence for malpractice. Even if doctors and insurance companies can live with $250,000 or $400,000, what's the consequence to the patient?

Dick Guttman


Last week a friend of mine died of a heart attack at the age of 49. He was a fix-it man who spent his evenings and weekends as a Boy Scout troop leader.

The day before he died, he went to a hospital emergency room complaining of chest pain. He had insurance with a major HMO through his wife. The HMO did not give him an electrocardiograph or take blood gases. They just gave him nitroglycerin for his pain.

With a $250,000 pain-and-suffering cap on malpractice awards in California, the HMO knew that his wife and two teenage sons would not be able to find an attorney to sue it. So the world lost a fix-it man and troop leader, and I lost a friend.

Burrell Eveland


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