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Democrats in Congress are moving to overturn a Supreme Court decision that allowed medical device manufacturers to be shielded from lawsuits after the Supreme Court Justices recently decided drug makers should not receive the same protection. Last Wednesday, the Court ruled against Wyeth’s contention that it should not be subject to lawsuits in state courts for Phenergan, its anti-nausea drug, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)approved the medication. This ruling upheld a $6.7 million award to a Vermont woman who lost her arm when she was improperly injected with Phenergan.

Seizing the opportunity introduced by the Court’s decision, Democrats reintroduced the Medical Device Safety Act, which would allow similar lawsuits against companies that manufacture heart devices, replacement hips, catheters and other apparatuses. The medical device lobbying group quickly criticized the act, claiming it would impede medical innovation, create more lawsuits and result in higher health care costs for all Americans. However, many interest groups, including the AARP, trial lawyers and consumer advocates, support the bill. Many analysts believe this measure will soon become a law.

Let there be no mistake, this is a good bill and it needs to be passed. No one, absolutely no one, including corporations, should be immune from being held accountable for wrongful conduct, including negligence. For years the medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, among many other large business industries, have been seeking immunity from lawsuits. Some of them achieved partial victories during the last presidential administration through back-door preemption regulations via federal agencies. It looks as if the Obama Administration (and Congress) is proceeding on a more consumer-oriented track, looking out for the little guy. Hopefully, this philosophy will continue.

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