2:58 PM EST
Dick Durbin, D-IL

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, one of the amendments we are about to consider is offered by the Senator from Nevada.

We know medical malpractice is an issue in this country. The Institute of Medicine tells us that 98,000 Americans die each year from medical malpractice. Many more are injured. In the United States of America each year, there are about 11,000 medical malpractice claims paid.

There is a concern about the impact of medical malpractice on the practice of medicine. That is why President Obama and this legislation were looking together for ways to reduce medical malpractice, negligence, and errors. We are looking for ways to reduce any number of lawsuits that may not be necessary. That is a good and positive thing for us to do.

Unfortunately, the amendment offered by the Senator from Nevada is not a good amendment to achieve that goal because what the Senator from Nevada does is puts together a formula for compensating the lawyers who represent the victims of medical malpractice and reduces the amount of money that is available. I want every single dollar we can bring to the victims of medical malpractice, but the fact is, in our country today, most victims are not wealthy, and the only way they can bring a lawsuit

is if the lawyer says it is a contingency fee. If you, the victim, win, then I will be paid. If you lose, I am not paid. It is the only way many people of modest means can get into a courthouse.

The Senator from Nevada wants to limit the amount of money that can be paid to the attorneys, limit the opportunity for victims to be represented. If his goal is to reduce the money paid to lawyers, you would think the amendment would also reduce the money paid to defense lawyers, those insurance [Page: S12540]

company lawyers who are at the other table in the courtroom. Studies show that 50 percent more is paid to them than paid to the victims' lawyers. But the Senator

from Nevada does not restrict their payment in any way. In other words, if you are going to try to defeat a victim of medical malpractice in a courtroom, you can spend an unlimited amount of money, according to the Senator from Nevada. However, if you are going to represent that victim, he would limit the amount of

money that counsel, that attorney can be paid. It will mean fewer victims will have lawyers, and maybe some of the lawyers they have will not be the best because of the amendment offered by the Senator from Nevada. That is bad policy. It is not fair to the victims because many of these victims are innocent victims.

I recall a woman in Chicago who went to one of our more famous hospitals for the simple removal of a mole from her face. She was administered a general anesthesia, and during the course of the general anesthesia, the oxygen, which she was receiving, exploded, caught fire, and burned off her facial features. She went through repeated reconstructive surgery, scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering.

She was an innocent victim. She did nothing wrong. She wanted to make sure her medical bills were paid, her lost wages were paid, there was compensation for her pain and suffering. She was not a wealthy person. She went to an attorney, who said: I will take the case, but it is a contingency. If you win, I am paid. If you lose, I am not paid.

What the Senator from Nevada does with his amendment is limit the opportunity for innocent victims, just like her, to go into a courtroom, into our court of justice, and see justice at the end of the day. That is not a just result. We need to stick with this bill, which moves us forward, with innovative ways to reduce medical errors, reduce medical malpractice, and find ways to resolve the differences between medical providers and the patients in the fairest possible way. That is what this bill

does. That is what we should do.

The amendment that has been offered by the Senator from Nevada fails to reach that goal and is fundamentally unfair and unjust to victims who are just asking for a day in court and for the compensation which they deserve for their injury.

Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of my time.