Opinion: Gavin Newsom’s cronyism threatens families like mine

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French Laundry debacle, appointment of top aide raise serious questions about who the governor really represents

Op-Ed commentary by Charles Johnson, MERCURY NEWS

December 17, 2020


Gavin Newsom’s appointment as a top aide of Jim DeBoo, a protégé of his French Laundry dining partner and friend Jason Kinney, raises serious questions about who the governor really represents.

My wife tragically died after giving birth to our second son because a negligent physician disregarded her internal bleeding for 10 hours. She is one of too many African American women who die every year in childbirth, four times more often than any other group of women.

Shortly after the delivery I noticed blood in Kira’s catheter. We begged and pleaded but our cries for help were ignored.

The racial bias in California’s health care system led to my sons’ being robbed of one of the world’s greatest mothers. Black women patients’ pain and symptoms should not and can no longer be undermined or ignored. I have not come to a place of forgiveness because I have not found accountability. We must have justice before we can heal.

A California law unchanged since 1975 caps damages in medical malpractice claims and prevents accountability. Kinney and DeBoo, both registered lobbyists, are responsible for keeping the 1975 act in place. Over the past 10 years, they have been paid more than $2.8 million by the medical establishment to keep the cap.

Kinney’s political influence and 20 years’ acquaintanceship with Newsom was on display at the now-infamous dinner celebration for Kinney at the French Laundry, where an unmasked governor sat intimately with Kinney and his patrons, the president and the top lobbyist for the California Medical Association.

For me, the governor’s attendance displayed more than inexcusable hypocrisy. It showed how elite backdoor relationships with interests that spend heavily to influence state policy can uphold unjust laws for decades.

I have tried to meet with Newsom for over a year but our requests have been denied.

His latest refusal, in the wake of the French Laundry fiasco, is both maddening and inexcusable. Nominating DeBoo as his top advisor is doubling down on terrible judgment.

Newsom expressed remorse at being caught dining in the middle of a pandemic with major lobbyists but he is making it clear that the pain and suffering of victims and families are simply not worth equal time.

Families of injured patients like mine have taken matters into our own hands.

One year ago, we began a signature-gathering drive that has qualified a ballot measure to amend the unjust cap and make it comparable to 33 other states. The Fairness Act will be on the November 2022 ballot. We launched the campaign at the political landmark Frank Fat’s, site of a 1987 backroom deal by the medical and insurance interests Kinney and DeBoo represent that cemented medical negligence caps in place for another three decades.

My push for change is bigger than my family’s story. It is about hundreds of thousands of Californians who have been brutally injured or permanently disfigured. Far too many have tragically died. None of these families will ever be the same and there is no way for them to seek justice.

This is the governor’s moment to rebuild public trust and choose compassion for families who have been victimized by California’s medical establishment.

To do that, Newsom will have to step outside the glass walls of the French Laundry and choose California over Kinney and DeBoo. He should meet with me man-to-man, husband-to-husband, father-to-father, and take honorable action to amend unjust laws.

Charles Johnson is the founder of 4Kira4Moms and the chair of the Fairness Act.

Consumer Watchdog
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