PolitiCal

Opponents of medical-malpractice initiative take battle to airwaves

Proposition 46 is likely to be one of the most expensive election fights this year

A ballot-measure battle over medical-malpractice awards and drug testing of doctors arrived on the airwaves Tuesday, with opponents of the initiative rolling out statewide television and radio ads.

The ad buys mark the first major salvo in the contest over Proposition 46, which is primed to be one of the costliest fights of the November election.

The measure would require hospitals to randomly test doctors for drugs and alcohol and would mandate that physicians use a statewide database before prescribing certain drugs such as painkillers, in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse.

It also would increase the cap on certain damages in medical malpractice cases. The limit, which has been in place since 1975, has long been a source of contention between trial attorneys and doctors.

Both the 30-second television ad and the 60-second radio commercial released Tuesday blame trial attorneys for pushing the ballot measure, saying they would make money off higher malpractice awards.

The No on 46 campaign said both ads would run statewide in English and Spanish. The campaign would not disclose how much money it spent on the buys.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy organization supporting the measure, said the ads' claims were untrue.

"Only malpractice insurers who have given more than half the money for these deceptive ads could call such a deception 'the real story,' " Court said.

He said the "real question" is why physicians don't want to be as "accountable for impairment and their errors as other professions." 

Opponents of the measure have raised more than $36 million as of June 30. The bulk of that money came from medical-malpractice insurers and the state medical and dental associations.

Backers of the measure have raised $2.3 million, primarily from trial attorneys, as of June 30. 

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