September 14, 2003

A Grand Day Out

I told Michelle that if Daniel does get a little brother or sister in nine months, we'll tell him someday that it was because the internet was down. Michelle is on the pill and everything (going on 2nd month now), but given the birthdays of the four kids (all within 30 days of mid-June), I'm thinking mid-September is her Very Fertile time of the year, so you never know...

We all went out to the library yesterday. On my advice, Cody had read the excellent "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls a few weeks ago. One of the few books I read at a very early age and never, ever forgot. Cody really liked it, so we checked out the movie version, which he's eager to see. He also got the picture/storybook version of "The Hobbit" (I have the leather-bound versions of both "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" which are highly recommended Christmas gifts for Tolkien fans).

Although Justin is totally into the movie versions of LotR that have come out so far, they've been a little bit over Cody's head. He's interested, but the movies are a little too long and complicated for him to follow. Sucker that I am, I bought the regular DVD versions of both movies, but I really, really want the super-extended editions when they finally come out. I am waiting for the super-extended DVD box set of all three movies to come out, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it will come packaged with some other bonus DVD that you have no other way of getting (so that I would feel again like a sucker if I shelled out $25 for the extended "Fellowship" DVD that is out and for the extended "Two Towers" DVD when it comes out in a couple of months). I will rent the extended "Two Towers" from Blockbuster like I did for "Fellowship" just to satisfy my initial craving.

Anyway, I figure Cody will really like "The Hobbit", which is not much harder to read than the whole "Harry Potter" series (and he polished that off easily), and then he'll want to watch the LotR movies with the rest of us. Justin, meanwhile, has gotten started on the various "Redwall" books by Brian Jacques. I've never read any of those, but I've heard they're not bad for kids. Justin's reading skills have really improved this past year (especially over the summer when he had little else to do). He can read chapter books really quickly now, and he can discuss the plot with a lot of understanding.

Anyway, we ran a lot of other errands, too, yesterday, and I'm happy to report that the kids all had really good days. There was a time not too long ago when we simply wouldn't venture out for too long with all three kids (now four with Daniel, of course) in tow, and such trips would inevitably end in time out or other punishments for one or more of them. Now, though, it is pretty routine for me to take them myself to the library each Saturday and other places, and they are pretty good.

I voted yesterday, too, but pretty much everything I voted against passed anyway. Oh well, that's life in the Bible Belt for a crazy liberal like me. We have a new law here now that says if the doctor cuts off your leg by mistake, a jury doesn't get to decide your reward. Instead, that number is decided in the legislature by members bought and paid for by the insurance lobby. Man, insurance is a great racket to get into when you can totally control all conceivable costs. Why pay out millions in damages to suffering patients when a few tens of thousands in the pockets of the right legislators will do?

Posted by Observer at September 14, 2003 09:48 AM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

Yeah, it's SO much better for there to be zero OB-GYN docs around cuz malpractice insurance ate up everything they make.

I have a hard time grasping some of the huge jury payouts. I mean, I know they're thinking "it's just the insurance company's money"... Stupid.

Posted by: Humbaba on September 14, 2003 06:29 PM

Ummm, I'm looking through the directory of health care providers, and I don't see a shortage of doctors or specialists. And we're still sending 'em to med school as fast as they can matriculate. That was before this stupid new law passed.

I'll tell you what: I'd rather there be fewer Ob/Gyn's around than having some butchers able to hang on to their incompetent practices because they can absorb the cost of a couple of $20k payouts each year thanks to the idiotic Republican legislature.

I'd rather pass a law allowing for the existence of the professional juror before I'd pass a law limiting jury awards. They are treating the symptom (the occasional nutty award) instead of the cause (morons in the jury pool). This approach has the convenient side effect of making a bunch of Republicans (insurance company execs) really rich at the expense of mostly Democrats (lawyers). I'm sure that's just a coincidence, though.

Posted by: Observer on September 14, 2003 06:56 PM

By the way, I didn't really say this above, but let me say this about the books I mentioned.

"Where the Red Fern Grows" is an excellent book for kids around 6th grade or so. It is about a young boy growing up in the back woods who saves and saves and saves until he can buy two coon hounds. The book is about the adventures he has with his hounds, I haven't read it as an adult, so I don't know for sure how well it translates.

"The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" are, of course, top-notch for adults. I don't know about LotR for kids. When I read it as a kid, I thought it was fairly boring and long, and that was around 7th/8th grade. I read it again in high school and liked it better.

After ignoring the books for about 15 years, I finally picked them up again a couple of years ago and read through both. Wow, compared to the writing in most fantasy these days, Tolkien is just awesome. So easily readable, so entertaining, there is obviously so much care and effort and love in these books. I can say without hesitation that it is the best fantasy series I have ever read, maybe even the best books of any genre I have read.

And I have read a *lot*. Though my exposure to the classics is surely not what it Ought To Be due to the fact that I have ignored them since high school English.

Posted by: Observer on September 14, 2003 07:35 PM

I never read Hobbit or LoTR before a few years ago. I HATED The Hobbit. I was rooting for the troll, spiders, Smaug, everyone to kill those whiny dwarves and that smarmy annoying hobbit! I think the Hobbit is a children's book, because the writing is SO much Better in LoTR.

I almost didn't read LoTR because of it. But I saw the trailer for FoTR a year before it was out and that inspired me to read the LoTR series. I loved the first book and the first half of the second book. I had a lot of trouble with the "slogging through Mordor" bits though. It was through a sheer effort of will that I was able to slog through the Mordor sections. I think Tolkein took himself a little too seriously but that's just me.

Try the classics, they're great! I personally consider my favorites to be William Faulkner's The Sound & the Fury, and James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist, and The Dubliners. Dubliners is an easy read, it's all short stories, but they tie together really ingeniously and the last story is fantastic.

Posted by: Bav on September 15, 2003 07:58 AM

Geeesh it's not hard to tell what we did all weekend! You're just as bad as I am! M*E*O*W

Posted by: Felicity on September 15, 2003 08:25 AM

I remember reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" in the second grade, it was my favorite book for a while. I can't wait to read it to my kids.

Of course there are plenty of OB/GYNS there, you live in a major metropolitan place, and have legal protection for malpractice insurance. Here in Washington we don't, and I saw a story on the news about how one of the counties north of us had only 5, and two were retiring, two were moving out-of-state, and the last was no longer going to be an OB/GYN. None had ever done anything wrong, but malpractice insurance was going to be like $100k per year.

My mom is an RN in labor and delivery, and she told us about how bad it is for them. Huge cutbacks because the hospital can't afford the rising insurance premiums. They lost a talented OB/GYN because a woman came in insisting on a vaginal birth after she'd had a c-section, I forget what went wrong but it wasn't the doctors fault, her uterus burst, they lost the baby but miraculously saved not only her life but were able to save her uterus. She sued, and the jury awarded her several million dollars. Asking the jury after the trial, one said "well, we knew the doctor and the hospital did nothing wrong, but we felt bad for the woman cuz she lost her baby, so we had to give her SOMETHING"

Posted by: Humbaba on September 15, 2003 09:02 AM

Of course, one big reason OB/GYN's get out of the business is because of the whole abortion thing. OB/GYN's who aren't 100% opposed to abortion are always getting threats and other forms of harassment, and that tends to drive them from the specialty and into other things (not to mention the occasional shooting). And this is particularly true in rural, conservative regions of the country. So there are more than just malpractice issues at work in that particular area.

But further, I still believe you are treating the symptom rather than the problem. If you want to do something about moron juries, then write laws that fix the problem of moron juries. Don't just put a band-aid over the one particular issue that happens to make insurance companies and Republicans rich while this gaping wound in our legal system continues to bleed.

Posted by: Observer on September 15, 2003 09:19 AM

I first read Tolkien the summer I turned 12, when I was more or less isolated for half the summer with nothing else to read, no TV, approximately no access to movies, etc. etc. So I read it all, over and over again, for about a month and a half. (And, 15 years later, while procrastinating my prep for a seminar I was to give the next day, I took the Tolkien trivia contest at UT one evening, having not picked up the books in about 3 years [since the Silmarillion had come out] ... and won, to my horror.)

I'm one of those purists who cringes at some of the changes that had to be done to LotR to make it into something that makes a watchable trio of movies. It's a decent job, but I wonder what is going to happen to people who start reading the books *after* seeing the movie and get horribly confused by the depths in the written work. No worse than other movie-book translations, I suppose, but still...

Posted by: Feff on September 15, 2003 09:51 AM

I don't know how you fix the problem of jury awards other than stop that practice and have awards decided by the judge.

Posted by: Humbaba on September 15, 2003 09:51 AM

I wish I could find a good link on the whole concept of professional jury pools and how that is implemented in other countries, but I'm not having any luck right now. I've read about this idea in a few different places, and it sounds like it is really worth a try. The jury selection process is hugely susceptible to abuse (and has been in far more significant cases than insurance claims ... think lynching trials and that sort of thing).

I wouldn't put it into the hands of individual judges either. Even judges are too damned partisan nowadays. They have to raise so much money and kiss so much ass to get elected. Maybe panels of judges selected by some non-partisan process. In my dreams, anyway.

Professional juries are easier because it would circumvent the current system and take power from the hands of people (the general public jury pool) who don't really care about the power.

Posted by: Observer on September 15, 2003 02:00 PM

Even though I (shudder) work for an insurance company, I'm really really REALLY opposed to doing away with jury trials and/or capping verdicts. Note that lots of the worst jury verdicts involve punitive damages, and many states (Washington among them) don't *have* punitive damages. Besides, approximately all of the huge verdicts that make the press are overturned on appeal anyway (though you never hear that part).

Unfortunately, I also think you need to have the stick of the potential 9-digit-verdict to keep corporations from killing people for profit. The Ford Pinto firebomb case proved that.

As for "toxic mold" and the chaos that is goign through Texas and homeowners' insurance (to cite the one that a certain employer is obsessing about now) ... I don't know. I wonder about "junk science" in the courtroom.

Posted by: Feff on September 15, 2003 05:06 PM

A great movie modeled after the Ford Pinto story (which also lays out the economics behind insurance company decisions and lawsuits) is "Class Action" with the always great Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth mas-too-many-syllables-in-her-name-tonio.

Posted by: Observer on September 15, 2003 05:16 PM

They lost a talented OB/GYN because a woman came in insisting on a vaginal birth after she'd had a c-section, I forget what went wrong but it wasn't the doctors fault, her uterus burst, they lost the baby but miraculously saved not only her life but were able to save her uterus.

That's interesting. I've been hearing about the first Cytotec suits getting to trial over the past year. Most of them are women who had previous cesareans, then were induced in a subsequent pregnancy with Cytotec, an ulcer drug. It was widely adopted for induction of labor (off label) in the late 90's because it costs about 10 cents, while the FDA approved drug is about $100 per induction. (Most hospitals are reimbursed by DRG.)

Unfortunately, it turned out to cause excessively strong contractions. The uterine rupture rate was eventually reported to be as high as 7% for women with previous uterine surgery. The "studies" were retrospective--none of the women were informed that the use of Cytotec was experimental. There were also ruptures among women with no previous surgery, which is astonishing.

Most of the suits I've heard about focused on the off-label use without informed consent, and most defenses used the "standard of care" defense: everyone else was doing it too. The women seem to be prevailing, although the awards are low because a dead baby isn't worth much cash in court. It's a living but permanently disabled baby that gets you the big bucks.

They're still using Cytotec, but the dosages have decreased since the early days. One hospital in NYC will only use Pitocin if the woman agrees to pay the extra cost out of pocket in advance. Oh, and the manufacturer relabelled the drug, begging doctors not to use it because it had been proven too dangerous.

But of course that couldn't possibly be the issue in the case you heard about in such vivid detail. Probably the jury was just too stupid to understand the issues being presented to them.

Posted by: Shamhat on September 15, 2003 08:36 PM

Oh those pesky facts. Yeah, the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will do the math. Through their bribed legislators, they'll get to decide how much a ruptured uterus or other such statistically predictable screwup is worth. But I'm sure they'll be *compassionate* conservatives. (snort)

Posted by: Observer on September 15, 2003 09:01 PM

The pregnancy in question wasn't an induction.

Posted by: Humbaba on September 16, 2003 12:11 AM

The pregnancy in question wasn't an induction.

That's interesting that you have that detail.

Usually when there is a lawsuit, or even the possibility of one, medical personnel are not permitted to discuss the events with anyone. The excuse is that anyone who is told about the event could be called upon to testify.

Thus, typically when a doctor is sued, rumors get passed around but no one who was actually present can confirm or deny. They usually congeal into a romantic story about how the heroic doctor saved the ungrateful patient, who was then duped by a lawyer into thinking she won the lottery. But of course, that wasn't the case here.

Now tell me about the one where the woman tripped over her own misbehaving toddler and sued Home Depot for $10 million. Or post a link--court decisions are public.

Posted by: on September 16, 2003 01:13 PM