Parents of Blind and Brain Damaged Victim of Malpractice Call For Correction of Defamatory Claim

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AMA President-Elect Misrepresented Damages Received by Child

Santa Monica, CA. — The parents of a blind and brain damaged child, who was the victim of medical negligence at two years of age, called on the President-Elect of the American Medical Association (AMA), Dr. Donald Palmisano, to issue a correction to be broadcast nationally for lying about their son’s case on national television. Palmisano claimed, on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, that “$42 million was given to that child.” In truth, “that child,” Steven Olsen, eventually received less than $2 million from the court case referenced by Palmisano for his lifetime of medical care and other costs.

The Olsens sent a copy of their request to the executive producer of NewsHour, Les Crystal, today. Palmisano has not yet responded.

“Your claim inflated Steven’s compensation by 2,000% in an attempt to blame victims, and the juries that bring them justice, for runaway malpractice premiums,” Scott and Kathy Olsen wrote in a letter sent to Palmisano last week. They also called on Palmisano to apologize to Steven and his family.

Steven Olsen is blind and brain damaged today because he was denied an $800 CAT scan when he was two years old. Steven received $1.975 million in the case at issue, not $42 million as claimed by Dr. Palmisano, to pay for a lifetime of care. His court costs and legal fees were $914,000. A jury supplemented this amount with $7.1 million in “non-economic” damages after determining that had Steven received the CAT scan he would be healthy today. Unbeknownst to the jury, their verdict was reduced to $250,000 by California’s cap on malpractice damages that Dr. Palmisano is promoting nationwide.

“Steven has been victimized by the medical system, the tilting of the scales of justice in the tort system, and now by you and the organization you represent,” concluded the Olsens’ letter to Palmisano. “We request that your correction and apology be to NewsHour by January 31 in order to set the record straight before Congressional debate [on a national malpractice damage cap] begins.”

Dr. Donald Palmisano is the AMA‘s spokesman in support of a Bush administration proposal modeled after the limit on legal damages for malpractice victims contained in California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). However, studies have shown that MICRA did not reduce insurance premiums for doctors. Premiums did not drop until after strong insurance regulation was passed in California under Proposition 103. This data can be found at:

President Bush‘s Proposal Will Do Double Damage to Malpractice Victims, Say Parents

The Olsens, with their son Steven, also spoke last week against President Bush‘s proposal to cap legal recovery for victims of malpractice. They chastised President Bush, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein who has said she will carry malpractice legislation, for promoting a policy which would further harm already damaged victims like their son, while doing nothing to ensure that malpractice premiums will drop.

In a statement, Scott Olsen challenged Bush’s representation of jury verdicts as jackpots for victims. “Mr. President, you said, ‘The system looks like a giant lottery.’ And to you, Mr. President, I assure you, my son never purchased a ticket for this lottery. And if you think malpractice victims are winners of some kind of lottery, I say, look at Steven Olsen.”

President Bush and Senator Feinstein refused to meet with the Olsens in Washington DC.

The Olsens’ letter to Palmisano, and Scott Olsen’s statement on the Bush proposal, can be read at:


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