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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Insult upon Injury: How Many Patients of Dr. Harrington Will Be Hurt by Oklahoma Tort Reform?

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Tulsa, Oklahoma County Health Department officials recently announced that a local dentist may have exposed as many as 7000 patients to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and/or HIV going back to 2007. Dr. W. Scott Harrington is accused of maintaining unsanitary conditions in his dental office, including the use of dirty needles and instruments. State investigators said the facility was ‘disgusting and dangerous’. In addition, it is alleged that unlicensed employees were allowed to perform IV sedations.

To date, nearly 60 patients of Harrington have tested positive for hepatitis C, three tested positive for hepatitis B, and at least one person has tested positive for HIV. It is too early to determine how many, if any, of these patients acquired disease through Harrington’s unsanitary dental practices or were exposed in another way. Harrington voluntarily surrendered his credentials on March 20; both of his offices are now closed.

The lives of patients harmed by Dr. Harrington have been changed forever; the doctor’s negligence will result in long-term pain and suffering, maybe premature death. While compensation will not change the future of these infected patients, it might help them get the medical care they need to live a better, perhaps longer, life. Unfortunately, a 2011 tort reform law has pre-determined what every Oklahoman’s injury is worth; this law limits patients’ ability to seek justice from the seriously negligent professionals. These innocent victims will see very limited compensation, if any, because a law was put in effect to insolate insurance companies, bad doctors and dentists, and corporate wrongdoers.

Oklahoma tort reform, limitations on compensation, anywhere, is a bad deal for innocent citizens and a great deal for wealthy insurance companies and bad professionals. While each brand of tort reform has its own signature, all versions share common goals. Tort reform always seeks to:

  • Make it more difficult for injured/disabled citizens to file a lawsuit
  • Make it more difficult for injured/disabled citizens to have their case heard by a jury
  • Place severe and unfair limits on the amount of compensation that injured/disabled citizens can receive in their lawsuits.

There is a theory “out there” among politicians who pad their campaign war chests with corporate and professional dollars, that limiting victim’s access to the civil justice system and/or artificially capping damage awards, will bring more doctors and more business to the state that enacts these reforms. But, reform doesn’t improve care or stop doctors from making mistakes; it doesn’t bring good doctors into the state. It simply exempts the bad ones being held accountable; it encourages bad doctors to flock to a heavily tort reformed state. And, it gives them and their insurance companies a “get out of jail free card” by immunizing them and passing their compensation responsibilities to the victims and the taxpayers.

Why put safety first when there is no accountability? Because damage caps are insufficient to support the victims, those uncompensated or undercompensated must turn to the welfare system where we taxpayers foot the bill. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to pay more taxes so that a negligent doctor can get a pass on liability for the damage and devastation he/she causes. Yet in state after state, these unfair laws continue to be pushed and continue to pass. Have we really become this apathetic? I thought we were looking for a way of pay less taxes! Why do so-called “conservative”, anti-tax and spend politicians consistently support this pro-business, anti-citizen garbage?

No one thinks of the potential consequences when a proposal to limit the constitutional rights of the American people is being presented by multi-million dollar ad campaigns. The largest business lobby in the United States might be the US Chamber of Commerce. This organization spends millions in ads painting lawyers “bad” and tort reform “good”. For some, it is that simple, until they are afflicted with a preventable disease by a doctor who has an unsanitary practice, until they are killed by a defective drug or product or a drunk or inattentive driver.

Our constitutional freedoms are being hi-jacked here. We have a 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury. Quality of care can only improve through accountability and justice. Every concerned American vocally oppose any effort to restrict a person's right to tort recovery; if your senator or representative, state or federal, supports these restrictions, vote them out of office. You never know when you will be the next victim. Don’t let the "tort reform" candidates provide a bailout for guilty corporations, doctors and insurance companies.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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    I am certified to train doctors and others about infectious desieses,the fact is that more people are going to die from hepititis than will ever die from aids and it is mutating so fast that the medical comunity doesnt have a chance to keep up with it,if anyone out there would like to find out what is really going on in the field of infectious disiese e-mail me at sohappymike@yahoo.com and we can discuss it on the phone,but hurry Im in the 4th stage of liver cirocis and could live forever if hell freezes over this year…….lol forgive my spelling !!!!!!!