Rick Santorum and Medical Malpractice

Republican presidential hopeful candidate Rick Santorum is a big advocate of medical malpractice tort reform. In 1996, his wife Karen brought a medical malpractice case alleging a negligent chiropractic manipulation that caused a herniated disc in her back. She got a jury verdict of $350,000 which was reduced to $175,000 by the trial judge, presumably after a remittur motion. Her medical bills that allegedly resulted from the malpractice were $18,000.

You knew this already? Yeah, I guess I have been living under a rock. I can’t believe I missed this.

Where is Santorum on this issue? The answer comes in Mitt Romney flavor. In the House of Representatives in 1994, Santorum introduced a bill to cap non-economic damages awarded by juries in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.

His wife’s lawsuit, I guess, opened up his heart. In 2003, Had Not Yet Lost By 20 Points Senator Santorum said the $250,000 cap set in Congressman Jim Greenwood’s bill was “too low.” The next day, he told The Associated Press that he’d “been hesitant to sign on to any bill that has a cap.” Alas, he is not solidly back in the tort reformers corner. Enough time has passed since his wife’s medical malpractice lawsuit, I guess.

There is no way on earth I would vote for Rick Santorum. But he struck me – and I think voters -as a guy who practiced what he preached. Then, he went into the whole, as Jon Stewart put it, “Class warfare against the rich — excuse me, job creators — is wrong, unless we’re talking about Mitt Romney” hypocrisy. Now, Santorum is exposed for his “everyone should be capped on malpractice awards except my family” position on tort reform (I won’t even get into his, “I voted for every spending bill that raised the deficit, but now I’m a hawk on spending” problem).

Eric Turkewitz interestingly defends Santorum, invoking Laura (and I think Barbara) Bush’s views on abortion. But this is not a privately held opinion Ms. Santorum had. She took affirmative action to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is a big deal for anyone, I doubt it was not an important issue for their family. Still, Santorum pushed an, “I was not at the meeting” explanation. On December 25, 2000, the Washington Post reported:

Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham said the senator’s wife never asked him for his opinion of the lawsuit and Santorum never offered it. ‘The senator and his wife, believe it or not, disagree on some issues,’ Traynham said. ‘This is a case between her,her attorney, and her chiropractor. It has nothing to do with Senator Santorum.’

Seriously? They have this ostensibly, ultra traditional marriage yet she did not consult with him before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit? It is hard to believe that she did not have her husband’s consent to bring her own claim. Can you imagine bringing a claim like this without talking to your husband? Meanwhile, ricksantorumSantorum must have at least heard about the lawsuit because he testified at trial that his wife had a hard time campaigning for him because of her herniated disc.

If she is having a hard time campaigning for her husband in 2012, my friends at Google have not gotten wind of it. Ms. Santorum seems to be a Nicholas Brody type super double agent for tort reform: she goes out and gets a big verdict worth a jury’s verdict but then the injury disappears (no one knows anyone else’s pain).

I don’t mean to bring politics into this blog. Go back and look, I do it really infrequently. I have respect for Santorum as I do all of the candidates, even Gingrich. But it is just like pro tort reform, doctors bring malpractice claims. The hypocrisy of it all is frustrating and it is not just on my pet issues like malpractice caps. The way Republicans have gone after Mitt Romney for playing by the rules, making money and paying the capital gains taxes he is obligated to pay. You can disagree with whether it demonstrates a flaw in Romney – I personally don’t – but I don’t see how Republicans can hypercritically attack Romney so, for going out and getting a great education and making a fortune, when in every single other context they call it living the American dream.

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