Banks County Opinions...

DECEMBER 11, 2002


Editorial

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
December 11, 2002

Republican majority could mean limits on rights to sue
Legal reform may be closer than we think, but don’t be surprised if it’s not called that.
Political analysts believe if legal reform were going to happen then it would happen now. We have a president who won limits on lawsuits when he was the governor of Texas and Republicans who have control of the Senate and House.
And the lobbyists are clamoring to call legal reform anything but legal reform.
They prefer to call it an “economic development issue” or as President Bush calls it “job creation bills.” The lobbyists argue that limiting consumers’ right to sue will save struggling businesses, preserve jobs and protect access to healthcare.
I’m a Republican, but I’m not buying that cow.
Dr. Donald Palmisano, a New Orleans doctor and lawyer who will become president of the American Medical Association (AMA) next year, calls our current justice system “broken” and says that calling legal reform “tort reform” or “malpractice liability limits” gives people opposed to legal reform a foot up. Huh. If calling it what it is arms its opponents then maybe it isn’t such a good idea.
The AMA portends that legal reform would benefit Americans because some doctors have had to quit practicing due to costly malpractice lawsuits and expensive insurance. And that is a shame. So Palmisano’s AMA wants the government to limit medical malpractice lawsuit awards to a maximum of $250,000. So which shame is greater? The doctor with his high insurance bills or handicapping a jury of 12 by telling them that no matter how tragically or needlessly a life ended, that life is only worth $250,000 at best? If it is not the doctor’s fault a patient dies, I believe the jury would know that. I believe in the justice system. If it is the doctor’s fault, if he was negligent, then the amount awarded should be decided by the jury. The incident should warrant the settlement, not a group of people lobbying to decrease insurance rates.
In any business venture, be it saving lives or sweeping floors, we must weigh the costs of doing our job with our returns. It is just that simple.
The problem as I see it with physicians is they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, that is between health insurance and malpractice insurance. It can’t get worse than that. I’m not a big fan of insurance. You buy it, you pay ever increasing premiums and hope you’ll never actually need it or if you do need it you pray your claim won’t be denied because you failed to read the fine print on page 112 of your most recent insurance manual.
We need electricity. It’s regulated. We need gas. It was recently deregulated and most wish it hadn’t been. We need insurance. To drive a car. To see a doctor. To operate a business. Regulate insurance. Put caps on insurance premiums. Limit the number of people getting rich as insurance rates force more people to risk getting caught without it. But don’t tread on my rights as a consumer.
[DISCLAIMER: Let me make it clear that I’m not defending frivolous law suits like the gentlemen claiming McDonald’s made him fat. People filing frivolous lawsuits should have to pay the expense of the trial. I do not believe 12 sane people would find in that man’s favor. Not unless they know something I don’t, like McDonald’s slipping an ingredient into Big Mac’s which makes them addictive (i.e., Big Tobacco) or false nutritional content statements.]
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
December 11, 2002

The best presents
While out shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, I took a breather and sat down to check off hoped-for gifts on my lists.
I stopped and thought back on Christmases past, when things were simpler. I stepped into my “way-back” machine and thoughts carried me to a Christmas many, many years ago when I was five.
I remember the sweet scents of the pumpkin and apple pies and sugar cookies fresh out of the oven. The mouth-watering aroma of dark chocolate melting in a pot on the old gas range. Grams was busy, her apron painted with all the ingredients of the luscious treats we’d soon be eating. They were stacked on cooling racks and trays covering the huge dining room table.
We couldn’t sneak a bite of anything, no matter how sneaky we all were. That woman had radar or eyes in the back of her head. Security systems could have learned a thing or two from her
“Don’t touch those, they’re for tomorrow,” she’d say sternly from two rooms away.
Gramps and Grams kept Christmas well. Decorations would adorn every window, every archway and every door. Mistletoe would be hidden here and there for those dreaded sneak “kiss-attacks.”
We kids never understood the point of mistletoe. It would always mean the eventual attack from an aging great-aunt doused with the scents of a flower garden. And though we’d find the stuff in advance so we knew where to avoid, in the fun of Christmas Day we’d forget and get nailed with a lipsticked pucker.
It makes me smile now. Hmmm... I’m a great-aunt. The mischief I could get into... Why should these youngsters miss out on all the fun?
My mind drifts again. It’s Christmas morning and the first thing I did was race to the tree that Santa had brought while we were asleep. Not to see the presents — to stick my face in the branches and inhale that wonderful fragrance.
I loved our tree. It was covered with ornaments that had been in the family for many years, passed down from generation to generation. Beautiful blown glass ornaments of every color. The soft glow of the large bulbs. The bubble lights busily gurgling. The graceful, delicate glass birds with the flowing tail feathers. It was always a work of art. Santa was an incredible artist I used to think. And how was able to use all our ornaments all those years without breaking any made me think he was a truly magical character. I did ponder, though, why he didn’t come back to take it down. The childlike thought made me laugh at myself.
My next mission was to locate my ornament. When each of us were born, Gramps bought us a Christmas ornament. Mine was a beautiful deep red glass ball with the chorus of “Silent Night” written in white, glistening “snow.” Though I wasn’t allowed to touch it until I was older, just looking at it gave me an indescribable feeling of being a part of the beauty of our tree.
But, something was wrong. I couldn’t find my ornament. Gramps was sitting in his favorite chair reading the newspaper. I went over and grabbed his knee and asked where it was.
“Well,” he said as he lifted me up, “let’s see. It must be here somewhere.”
Nestled in his arms we walked around the tree. We looked high and low — no ornament.
Then I caught this gleam in his eyes.
“Ok, Gramps, what did you do with my ornament,” I asked firmly.
He sat down and as I sat in his lap, he reached down beside his chair. As he pulled his arm back up, I saw a red glimmer peaking from his hand.
“Well, what have we here,” he asked with a smile.
There, in his callused, craggy hand lay my ornament. I looked up at him, bewildered.
We looked at it closely. Nope, no cracks. It was intact and more beautiful than ever. I had never been so close to it. I wanted to touch it and my tiny fingers reached out, but hesitated.
He picked me up and we walked back to the tree. He asked me where I wanted to put it. I pointed to a spot mid-way up the tree. It was a small branch that seemed empty and waiting for something to hang there.
He opened his hand and told me to hang it up. I couldn’t believe it. I was holding my own ornament.
It was a precious moment. I gently reached out with one hand to touch the bough and with the other hung it there on the tree. Right in front where I could see it from anywhere in the room.
I hugged him tightly. I felt so special, so loved.
Those few moments hanging that ornament with Gramps were far more precious to me than anything under the tree. The occasion meant even more to me just four months later when I lost him to a heart attack.
My beautiful “Silent Night” ornament still brings back that memory and that gift when I unwrap it to hang on my own tree.
The best presents are not those that you hold in your hand, but the ones you hold in your heart.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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