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Of Respect, Trust and Justice by Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is the President of The Collation of Patients’ Rights (CPR). CPR is a grassroots organization that is dedicated to protecting and promoting all aspects of patients’ rights and safety. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and five children.

Although the term “The Greatest Gen-

eration” has never really been defined, it should refer to those who lived through the trying times of the depression, fought on the miserable battlefields in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, embodied the values of hard work, jus- tice, compassion, dignity coupled with a refusal to complain about their hardships, and possessed an unqualified love of their country. In all of these ways, my father was the embodiment of the “Greatest Generation”. My father respected doctors and he trusted hospitals. In 2004, my father’s re- spect and trust was met with the greatest betrayal imaginable when he became the victim of a litany of medical malpractice and negligence which tortured him for four months before ultimately killing him.

My father and I were tied at the souls.

We knew each other’s thoughts and felt each other’s feelings. The dark tragedy that befell him ignited within me a deep, a very deep, desire for justice for him and prompted me to make a commitment to prevent others from going through the same unnecessary torture that he went through.

Late in 2004, I walked into a law office and I began the pursuit of justice for my father. Around the same time, Maryland Gov- ernor Robert Ehrlich called for an emergency session of the legislature to “re- solve” the problem of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance. The gov- ernor claimed that frivolous lawsuits and runaway jury awards were the cause of doctors’ high insurance rates. His strat-

egy was to further curtail the compensa- tion afforded to victims of malpractice and all but eliminate most victims’ access to the courts. The Governor hoped to con- vince the legislature that “tort reform” was long overdue. The tort reformers never presented any evidence to back up their arguments. In- stead, they relied on a position of “personal accountability” that had gained popularity among a large segment of the public. The reformers said they were out to correct the abuses of the system and protect the public’s dwindling access to medical care. Many of the “reformers” argued that doctors were leaving the state in droves because of the liability crisis, while allied proponents in Washington D.C. were claiming doctors were leaving there to go to Maryland for the same rea- sons! But what they really wanted had nothing to do with justice, fairness or even access to medical care. In response to the egregious assault on the most basic civil rights of the most vulnerable of our society, a small core of us who had felt the anguish of being vic- timized and who had come to know the rigors of the system, formed the Coali- tion For Patients’ Rights (CPR). We were from all political, ethnic and religious persuasions. We needed no motivational speeches or encouragement. We didn’t need for anyone to explain the issues to us or how important was the fight. Prior to our experiences, we respected the medical professions and we trusted the healthcare system. But we suffered the pain, the anguish, the injuries, the death and the kind of betrayal that my father had experienced. We all had first hand knowledge of what “bad medicine” really means and how pervasive it really is. We had seen how most hospitals are under- staffed, dysfunctional and breeding grounds for deadly bacteria that are rou- tinely passed from patient to patient. We

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