Start talking, Stop Talking

The Madison County Record Sep. 16, 2004, 6:11am

Blago's Big Secret: More meetings

Citing 'relief for patients,' Governor Blagojevich announced last Thursday that he has appointed a 'special mediator' to restart talks on what the state should do about its medical malpractice crisis.

The governor's press aides have been dropping hints about a 'major announcement' regarding medical malpractice reform for the past few weeks.

Former chief Cook County judge Donald P. O'Connell is the guy. He recently served as special counsel at the University of Illinois hospital system for medical negligence issues.

As close trial lawyer allies run the Illinois House and Senate, O'Connell has his work cut out for him to move the powers-in-charge to some middle ground.

Their first meeting is Sept. 29.

Communication isn't key

Last week, big shot Chicago trial lawyer and major Blagojevich backer Robert Clifford told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that things will be tough for O'Connell "given this especially nasty pitch of rhetoric in downstate Illinois" on the tort reform issue.

So Clifford thinks that we downstaters need to tone it down. Once we do, it will be easier for the Chicago powerbrokers to solve our medical malpractice woes.

Eureka! Our 'rhetoric' is part of the problem after all, not part of the solution.

The Founding Fathers made free speech a constitutional right. Until Mr. Clifford mentioned it, we never bothered to question whether it was also in society's best interest.

Med Society: Be fruitful

Caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases have been a, perhaps the, major point of contention in Illinois' tort reform debate.

Trial lawyers are vehemently opposed to caps.

And moments after Governor Blagojevich made his annoucement last week, doctors reiterated last week that they are strongly in-favor of them.

"Important issues arbitrarily taken off the table previously by the plaintiff's bar (including) caps on non-economic damages... must be brought back for discussion by all parties if these negotiaions are going to be fruitful," said Dr. Kenneth J. Printen, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, which represents doctors.

Starting fresh, we're already at an impasse. Stay tuned.

Tort Reform Nostalgia

Madison County's very own state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Troy) presided over the February 10, 1995 Illinois House Executive Commitee hearing at which 'caps' on damages were first discussed and passed.

Way back then, Republicans controlled both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the Governor's Mansion.

Also way back then, Governor Rod Blagojevich was a Chicago-based state representative himself and a member of the panel. He voted 'no' on caps. So did Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), who was also on the committee.

Hoffman and Blagojevich are close buddies to this day. Hoffman serves as the governor's 'floor leader' in the Illinois House.

Those damage caps, which would set a limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages in personal injury cases, would become law only to be later overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court.

North on 203

New asbestos Judge Daniel J. Stack liked his mug gracing our front pages last week.

He wasn't as pleased that we wrote he was raised in East St. Louis, not his true blue native Granite City. Sorry, Judge Stack!

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