Accuracy in Media

Reaffirming his pariah status as a non-liberal in the network news business, John Stossel narrated a devastating report on ABC’s 20/20 on July 23 about Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards’ controversial work as a trial lawyer.  Stossel cited evidence that the cases pursued by Edwards have resulted in increased dangers to the health and even lives of ordinary women.

The conventional story line is that Edwards was picked in part because he appeals to women.  That ignores how his rich trial-lawyer friends have funded the Kerry campaign when Edwards left the presidential race.  But if it is about looks, women might want to know what Edwards has done, or not done, for their health.  He has sued the pants off doctors and hospitals, blaming them for cases of cerebral palsy in babies and infants.  He claims the unborn children were deprived of oxygen during delivery and that they should have been delivered by caesarean section.  He won a jury verdict by claiming to speak for an injured baby in the womb.

Marc Morano of had done an expos? last January of how Edwards used “junk science” in his cases.  Stossel added to this, noting that “In a report released last year by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics, scientists now say the disease is seldom caused by anything a doctor does in the delivery room.”  But the result of Edwards-type lawsuits has been a radical increase in the number of caesarean deliveries, in order to avoid lawsuits.  Since 1970 C-sections have gone from 6 percent of all births to 26 percent.  Obstetrics professor Dr. Edgar Mandeville told Stossel, “And there has not been one small decrease in the cerebral palsy rate across the board.”

A caesarean delivery is a major operation that carries huge risks of infection and even death.  Plus, Stossel documented that, in order to avoid lawsuits, doctors are also ordering expensive and painful tests on women during pregnancy.  He explained that, “…today many C-sections are still done in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, even though C-sections are a more painful way to give birth, as well as more expensive, requiring a longer hospital stay, and carrying greater health risks.”  He asked the question, “So are women today experiencing unnecessary surgery partly because lawyers like Edwards scared doctors?”

Stossel is asking the question, but some Republicans are afraid to ask and answer it.  Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, while criticizing Edwards on many issues, has gone out of his way to avoid saying that he has a problem with how Edwards made a living.  Democrats can get away with making all kinds of wild accusations about Vice President Cheney’s old firm, Halliburton, but Edwards’ work as a controversial trial lawyer is supposed to be out of bounds.

The Edwards campaign said the Senator made sure his cases had merit.  But the fact remains that doctors and hospitals were forced to pay millions of more dollars in lawsuit verdicts and higher insurance costs that were ultimately passed on to the little people that Edwards claims to represent.

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