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Correction, please!

Clearing the Air

ITEM: New Environmental Protection Agency regulations, reported the CBS Evening News on November 22nd, would "reduce clean air standards." Commented correspondent Bob Orr: "The rollback of clean air rules is a bonanza for hundreds of the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants. Under the change, those plants will be allowed to pump out more power and consequently more smokestack emissions without having to install costly anti-pollution equipment."

CORRECTION: This half-truth is fundamentally deceptive. It neglects the fact that Clinton administration regulations actually inhibited cleaner air. If existing older plants wanted to become more productive or marginally cleaner, those rules dictated otherwise. The plants would have been required to install the most advanced technology possible to reduce pollution, incurring a huge expense. Doing nothing became a better business decision.

An EPA study found that existing regulations hurt investments and energy efficiency, produced uncertainty and confusion, and added expenses and delays. Noted the EPA, "As a result, many companies delay or abandon plans to modernize their facilities that will be good for the environment...."

Asbestos Attorneys Fired Up

ITEM: USA Today for November 26th insinuated that corporate interests have greater hopes of limiting liability with a Republican congressional majority "Business, a perennial friend of the Republican Party, wants to limit its exposure to costly court judgments. Trial lawyers, among the Democrats' most deep-pocketed supporters, want freedom to recover money for injured plaintiffs." The greatest likelihood for reform seems to be with asbestos-related issues.

CORRECTION: Those oh-so-altruistic trial lawyers who want to "recover money for injured plaintiffs" have turned asbestos litigation into a big business, bankrupting 50-60 U.S. firms in the process. They will likely seek liability claims totaling an estimated $275 billion over the next two decades, according to the Financial Times. Claims of $54 billion have been paid to date, reports the Rand Institute for Civil Justice. Yet less than half of those payments has gone to "injured plaintiffs"; the bulk has gone to attorneys.

Moreover, up to 95 percent of the suits are being made on behalf of people who are not sick today, and may never develop any asbestos-related illnesses -- with numerous actions filed against companies that had nothing to do with asbestos production. Rand foresees another 2.4 million claims, projecting that if lawsuits continue being filed at current rates more than half of U.S. businesses will wind up in asbestos cases.

This is actually hindering many real victims from obtaining justice. Over the previous two years, said the Wall Street Journal in April, "desperately ill plaintiffs have been eclipsed by a huge and growing number of relatively healthy people seeking awards for possible future illnesses."

Such scorched-earth tactics have led a few trial lawyers to reproach their colleagues. For example, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Steven Kazan said real victims are being hurt by illegitimate claims. "We've gone from a medical model in which a doctor diagnoses an illness and the patient then hires a lawyer, to an entrepreneurial model in which clients are recruited by lawyers who then file suit even when there is no real illness," said Kazan. "They are not patients. They are plaintiffs recruited for profit."

Disposing of the Disabled

ITEM: "Society might be better off if it prevents the birth of blind and severely disabled children, said biomedical ethicist Dan W. Brock at the University of Rhode Island's tenth Honors Colloquium lecture," reported the Narragansett Times (R.I.) for November 20th. "In a world where genetic screening has become not only common, but also proficient and covered by health insurance in some cases, new parents may be facing more thought-provoking decisions as they prepare for the birth of a child. And Brock thinks such decisions should be left to parents, not the government...."

CORRECTION: That a "bioethicist" on the federal payroll can encourage aborting children with disabilities without causing an uproar is an indictment of existing American society. To allow some ethical wiggle-room, Brock does indicate that his opinion about "prevent[ing] the birth of blind and severely disabled children" is not that of the federal government or the National Institutes of Health, where he works for the Department of Clinical Bioethics.

Brock has made the incredible argument that genetic engineering should be seriously considered because, to cite one example reported by CNSNews.com, the blind cannot appreciate paintings at art galleries. "Preventing a severe disability is not for the sake of the child who will have it," he has said. "Rather, it is for the sake of less suffering and loss of opportunity in the world."

Brock may be well intentioned, but many roads paved with good intentions reach unwanted destinations. Consider where 30 years of euthanasia in the Netherlands has led. As Wesley Smith wrote in National Review last year, Dutch doctors "lethally inject dying people who ask for it; chronically ill people who ask for it; disabled people who ask for it; depressed people who ask for it; and, disabled babies whose parents ask for it." Indeed, the process has gone beyond voluntary, garnering a term of its own -- "termination without request or consent."
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Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Date:Dec 30, 2002
Words:851
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