We’ll start by noting that April 20 marks the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards has a good wrap-up. Ken Feinberg, the lawyer who was hired by BP to administer its highly-controversial victims’ compensation fund, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (now taken over by the court), has been hired to distribute funds to the Boston Marathon victims. This money has been donated by various charitable sources. It’s our view that victim compensation funds are far more appropriate where there is no discernable wrongdoer capable of compensating for mass casualties - a wrongdoer that should be held accountable in court, like BP. We’ll see how Mr. Feinberg does in his new role.
The United States has had some of the best and, under some circumstances, the only laws available to human rights survivors to obtain some sort of redress, and legally to hold abusers accountable. These laws include the Alien Tort Statute, a law which (you would think) should be a source of pride in this country, especially when you see what happens in other countries like Guatemala. (There, corrupt leaders just stopped the genocide trial against war criminal Rios Montt.) But the U.S. Supreme Court substantially chipped away at the ATS this week by greatly limiting its reach. (See more in Scotusblog and from the Alliance for Justice.)
Turning to Texas, it’s clear lax regulation was largely to blame for the tragic fertilizer plant explosion. The Dallas Morning News put it this way: “[T]his much is clear: The explosion came after years in which state and federal agencies overlooked the potential for what some say was a preventable catastrophe.” More here. And, "A soil scientist at U.C. Berkeley says the deadly Texas explosion is another example of a troubling pattern; a lack of proper oversight to ensure public safety. Professor Garrison Sposito is not the only scientist or engineer to make the same connection. He says you can see it in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill …” So back to that again. And that's not all. Texas corporations also know that if they kill or injure people, it's unlikely they'll ever be held fully accountable in court.
Texas is also home to one of the most startling medical malpractice news stories of the week. After years of trying (falsely, we might add) to convince the public that enactment of draconian “tort reform” in Texas caused doctors to flood into the state, this week Texas lawmakers took up emergency legislation to fix - wait for it – the state’s critical doctor shortage.
And that’s not the only unbelieveable med mal story this week. Anyone who thinks profit isn’t the primary cause of our nation’s horrendous patient safety problem better take a look at the New York Times this week, which reported on a JAMA study finding that, “Hospitals make money from their own mistakes because insurers pay them for the longer stays and extra care that patients need to treat surgical complications that could have been prevented.…”
Dr. Barry Rosenberg, an author and a managing director of Boston Consulting, said the study came about because his firm was working with Texas Health Resources to find ways to reduce its hospitals’ surgical complication rates, which, at 5.3 percent, were in line with those reported by similar hospitals. Part of that work involved analyzing the costs, and he said the team was stunned to realize that lowering the complication rates would actually cost the hospital money.
“We said, ‘Whoa, we’re working our tails off trying to lower complications, and the prize we’re going to get is a reduction in profits,’ ” Dr. Rosenberg said in an interview. …
In an editorial, Uwe E. Reinhardt, an expert on medical economics from Princeton University, called the study’s findings “troublesome but not surprising.” He called the current payment system “untoward,” adding that it “can tempt otherwise admirable people into dubious conduct.”
Dubious, and sick. And speaking of sick, let’s not forget guns. You all know about the shameful Senate gun vote this week. As if the gun industry couldn't get any more sickening, this industry, which already is immune from liability for gun violence, started blocking Boston bomb investigators because apparently the reach of their extensive legal protection wasn’t infinite enough for the NRA.
Extremism cannot be maintained.