Ads Point Out Pros, Cons Of Doctor Drug Testing

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SAN DIEGO – Commercials playing on voters' feelings about doctors and lawyers are flooding the airwaves ahead of Election Day.

One ad for Proposition 46 draws a connection between medical mistakes and impaired doctors, but is what the ad implies fair?

Civility Project panelist John Beatty said, "It oversimplifies it. First of all, there's no verification that all those medical mistakes are because of drug use."

Beatty and Jeff Marston are part of the Civility Project panel that evaluates political ads. Marston said he thinks the ad which features Sen. Barbara Boxer makes ambiguous claims.

"It ties medical mistakes as the third-leading cause of death in the United States with no real validation of that," said Marston.

In fact, that statistic is controversial. One study puts the number of deaths in the U.S. from medical errors at 98,000 a year, while a second study says it's up to 440,000. The ad featuring Boxer cites the second study.

Despite the ad's oversimplification, the panel gave it an "A-" grade.

Another Prop. 46 ad points to editorials from well-known newspapers to make its case against the measure, but is it fair?

Beatty said, "Looking at the commercial, there's a lot of emotion but little information."

The ad includes quotes from the U-T San Diego that say Prop. 46 will enrich trial lawyers.

"Slamming trial lawyers who nobody likes until they need one," Beatty said.

Marsten added, "There was no explanation of that."

The implication is that lawyers will profit more once the cap is raised on medical negligence damage awards.

Because it lacks explanation and plays on people's feelings about lawyers, the panel gave the ad a "C" grade.

Proposition 46 would require random drug and alcohol testing of doctors.

Advocates of the measure say it's fair, while opponents say it's a violation of their rights.

Other parts to Prop. 46 include lawsuit limits. Currently, patients can sue doctors for $250,000.

However, if Prop. 46 is passed, the limit will be more than $1 million.

Opponents say it's an incentive for lawyers to sue.

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