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Call for Non-Partisan Investigation Into "Malpractice Tax"
Santa Monica, CA -- The parents of a blind and brain damaged California child, who was the victim of medical negligence when he was two years old, asked President Bush in a letter today to meet with them and give patients equal time to discuss his proposal to cap malpractice damages. The President has met with doctors across the country about his plan to impose a California-style cap on malpractice damages across the nation, which he is expected to talk about in the State of the Union address tomorrow, but has repeatedly refused to speak to malpractice victims or patient advocates.

Two year old Steven Olsen fell on a stick in the woods while playing and was denied an $800 CAT scan in the hospital, which would have detected a growing brain mass. Steven Olsen came back to the hospital comatose and is blind and brain damaged today. Had Steven received the CAT scan, he would have his sight and be perfectly healthy today at the age of fourteen.

"Our son's 'economic damages' keep his damaged body alive, but do not address in any way, shape or form the loss that he suffers in the quality of his life," wrote Scott Olsen, Steven's father, in the letter to President Bush. "There are those who believe that in every instance, without regard to age, severity of injury, or circumstance, that one's compensation for pain-and-suffering should be capped at $250,000. We believe this to be wrong, and, in fact, immoral."

The Olsens also wrote to California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer this week, and asked them to request the Government Accountability Office, or another nonpartisan agency, investigate the "malpractice tax" -- the cost of medical malpractice to the state and federal governments.

The letter spoke of Cyndi Enzenauer, whose husband died when a Northern California ER missed the results of a blood test, and her family's reliance on Social Security survivor benefits to make ends meet. In other cases, state and federal health care programs pay malpractice-related health care costs for patients.

"The reality of medical malpractice cases is that economic damages can fail to cover all of the patient's future needs or the costs faced by the family," wrote Kathy Olsen, Steven's mother, to Senator Feinstein. "Expenses the jury could not have anticipated will occur - in the form of unforeseen illness or an unprecedented rate of medical inflation. Patients frequently must rely on non-economic damages to fill the gap. When these damages are capped, as they are in California, government assistance is the only lifeline available to patients and families that are not adequately compensated by malpractice insurance companies."

"This means the taxpayers are paying the price when doctors and hospitals commit medical errors," the Olsens' letter continued. "How much money does Social Security spend to support the families of people killed by medical negligence? What do public health programs like Medi-Cal pay to care for people who suffered from preventable medical injuries but did not receive enough economic damages to pay the bills or even cover necessary care?"

The letters can be read here and here.

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