Court ruling unappealing


Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 vote that people who are injured by some Food and Drug Administration-approved medical devices cannot sue for damages in state court.

In a Supreme Court that is continuously providing right-leaning rulings, this is one both Democrats and Republicans can disagree with.

This newest ruling means that if your father is injured because the FDA-approved balloon catheter used during his heart surgery bursts, you cannot hold the company that made the catheter responsible. This is what happened to Charles Reigel, who sued after a balloon catheter burst during his angioplasty. The claim was that the device’s design was faulty.

The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that damages could not be brought against Medtronic, the company responsible for the catheter.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the second most senior justice on the court, wrote for the majority in this case. He stated that federal law preempts any liability under state law for any medical devices that have been FDA-approved for market use.

This ruling makes Justice Scalia seem as though he actually has faith in the FDA, which makes me question his judgment all the more. The FDA has been approving faulty products for years. It has approved drugs that cause irreversible harms to their recipients, food that has been recalled countless times and medical devices that are less than stellar.

The FDA either needs to be seriously revamped or it needs to be scrapped in favor of a government agency that will actually protect people from harmful food and drugs, a job the FDA has been failing at for years.

And though the ruling states that the only products which cannot garner any lawsuits are ones that pass Stage III FDA testing, I’m still left less than happy. Stage III is the most rigorous testing that is applied to any FDA-approved product. But using the term “rigorous” in connection with the FDA is more of an oxymoron than anything else, like “jumbo shrimp” or “pretty ugly.”

If President Bush can make public schools accountable for their intellectual outputs, why not hold all government agencies accountable for their respective outputs? How about if new legislation is passed which states that if the FDA approves more than X number of harmful products, its workers receive a pay cut? Maybe then its employees will actually start paying attention to the products they call safe. Maybe then, people who receive a prescription for arthritis medication won’t later have to deal with heart problems, or people who undergo an angioplasty won’t have to worry about a faulty medical device being used during the procedure.

However, legislation of this sort will most likely never be passed into law, so American citizens have only one recourse: Sue the company that gave them the harmful product.

I agree that removing a person’s right to sue will help lead in the fight against frivolous medical lawsuits. However, taking away a person’s ability to sue a company for damages incurred because of a faulty product is taking away that person’s only way to ensure those damages won’t happen to someone else. It is also taking away that person’s only way to receive any sort of retribution for harm that should never have come to him in the first place.

Frivolous medical lawsuits are a problem in America, and they need to be addressed. But taking away the right to sue is only going to allow companies to make faulty products with no financial consequences.

The FDA needs to shape up and start doing the job it was formed to. And in the meantime, the Supreme Court needs to stop limiting the options Americans have to ensure they are not taken advantage of.