Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's a human life going for these days?

Photo Creative Commons by Connectologist.

If there was ever any doubt in your mind that American corporations regard their customers as the enemy, you now have indisputable proof.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court (the conservative-agenda-promotion machine carefully assembled by presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and George W. Bush) rendered a decision which emphatically calls into question whether these United States are still a civilized nation. They ruled that consumers of medical devices – implantable defibrillators, heart pacemakers, insulin pumps and such – do not have the right to take the manufacturers to court if a product of theirs turns out to be defective as long as it has been approved by the Food and Drug administration. In other words, if a can of vichyssoise gives you food poisoning because the manufacturer slacked off on sanitary procedures, you can sue (at least as far as I know). But when the insulin pump that's keeping you alive craps out because its maker laid off half its quality-control staff, your next of kin are out of luck.

The threat of legal action was and is the only thing that will keep the highly-monied producers of these implantable devices from endangering life and limb by going slack on quality-control or even knowingly selling defective items just to get them out of the warehouse.

In short, the high court has taken the cop off the beat.

Now if grandpa dies because his pacemaker failed due to the manufacturer's negligence, the manufacturer can just say “Nyaah, nyaah. Caveat emptor!”

The corporations whose limitless campaign contributions got Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes elected got exactly what they paid for. These radical-right presidents, over many years, carefully selected justices for the nation's highest court, right-wing activists who, they hoped, would consistently rule in favor of corporations, televangelists, right-wing think-tanks and the finance industry. The court, which certain entities are still counting on to “protect the rights of the unborn” has now officially negated the rights of the already-living.

Industries knowingly selling products which threaten life, limb and property is nothing new. “The public be damned” was the reply Henry Ford gave to someone who suggested that it would be prudent to install safety glass in his automobiles rather than ordinary plate glass which shatters into deadly, razor-like fragments when it breaks as in a collision. His sentiments are the creed by which every corporate CEO has run their companies ever since. In the mid-1970's, when it turned out that the now-notorious Ford Pinto line of compact cars had a defect which would cause them to burst into flames when hit from behind, an investigation revealed that Ford Motor Company had no intention of correcting the defect or ordering a product recall. Their representatives lied to congressional committees regarding the safety of the vehicles.

That's “business ethics” for you.

Congress is currently taking up legislation which if passed would undo the effects of this execrable decision. And predictably, the multinationals which make and sell medical devices are funneling money to the appropriate members of congress. They declare, via slickly-produced advertisements and crocodile-teared testimony from hand-picked witnesses or deluded consumers before congressional committees that accountability threatens innovation, that there will be no more development of new medical devices if these oh-so-benevolent medical-device companies are subject to the same tort liabilities as a homeowner who doesn't keep his pet pit-bull caged or leashed. Bushwa. There's money to be made selling medical devices, big money as anyone who has paid for them out-of-pocket knows too well. Too much money for any company to not stay ahead of the curve and cash in on the action.

Call your senators and members of congress right now. (You can find who to contact in your area by clicking the hyperlinks). Let them know in no uncertain terms that your life and those of your friends and relatives is more important than an overfed executive's ego or his company's bottom line.

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