Santorum Exposed

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The Issue:

Why doesn’t Rick Santorum want to protect other people’s right to compensation if they’re victims of medical malpractice?

  • Rick voted to prevent Americans from getting just compensation for their pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice
  • But that didn’t keep Rick’s wife from suing a Virginia chiropractor for a half million dollars in “pain and suffering”
  • Pretty hypocritical, since that’s twice as much as the cap on such damages that his own legislation would have allowed others to receive
  • Rick calls their own lawsuit a “private family matter,” but doesn’t seem to think everyone else’s family deserves the same rights and respect

Why doesn’t Rick Santorum want to protect other people’s right to compensation if they’re victims of medical malpractice?

On May 17, 2004, Rick Santorum put out a press release saying, “I will continue to use my position in Senate leadership to push my colleagues to pass meaningful medical liability reform.”

But just what has his “leadership” meant for people who are sick and injured by malpractice? Not much.

Back in 1994, when Santorum was in Congress and running for the Senate, he introduced H.R. 3918, which would have capped non-economic damages awarded by juries in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. On February 7, 2003, Senator Santorum said the $250,000 cap set in Congressman Jim Greenwood’s bill was “too low.” The next day, he told The Associated Press that he’d “been hesitant to sign on to any bill that has a cap.”

Did something happen to change Santorum from one who authored a bill capping damages for a victim’s pain and suffering into one who couldn’t even sign onto such a bill?

Yes. Reality happened to Rick. In 1999, Santorum’s wife, Karen, filed her own medical malpractice lawsuit against a chiropractor in Virginia, seeking $500,000 in non-economic damages – twice the amount allowed in her husband’s own legislation five years earlier.

Again, it’s the hypocrisy, stupid!

Apparently, Rick Santorum thinks the rules ought to be different for him than for everyone else. Because even if he once fought to keep injured people from seeking more than $250,000 for pain and suffering, that certainly wasn’t enough for the Santorums themselves. His wife wanted $500,000 in damages against her Virginia-based chiropractor for alleged malpractice -- although her actual medical costs added up to $18,800.

Here’s how the Washington, DC newspaper Roll Call summarized part of Santorum’s testimony in the lawsuit:

“Karen Santorum, he said, ‘likes to be fit,’ but has had trouble losing weight since the birth of their two youngest children - Sarah Maria, who was born two years ago this month, and Peter, who is 2 months old – because she can’t exercise as easily as she once could.

“While Santorum described his wife as an exercise fanatic who used to engage in everything from step aerobics to jogging to lose weight after the birth of each of their first three children, the herniated disk changed all that.

“‘We have to go out and do a lot of public things. She wants to look nice, so it’s really difficult,’ Santorum told the jury.

“The Senator also said he fears his wife will be unable to help him out much with his upcoming re-election campaign because of her physical limitations and the poor self-image she has developed since her back problems changed her life and her daily routine.

“‘She has always been intricately involved in my campaigns,’ Santorum said, explaining that he and his wife ‘knocked on 20,000 doors together’ during his previous campaign.

“Now, he says, she ‘does not have the confidence to do that.’”

On December 10, 1999, a Fairfax County, Virginia jury awarded Karen Santorum $350,000 in her malpractice lawsuit. When asked about the judgment, Santorum said:

“The court proceedings are a personal family matter. I will not be offering any further public comments, other than that I am not a party to the suit. But I am fully supportive of my wife.”

On December 14, The Associated Press published the following statement by Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham:

“Senator Santorum is of the belief that the verdict decided upon by the jury during last week’s court case of his wife is strictly a private manner. The legislative positions that Senator Santorum has taken on tort reform and health care have been consistent with the case involving Mrs. Santorum.”

On December 25, The Washington Post reported:

“Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham said the senator’s wife never asked him for his opinion of the lawsuit and Santorum never offered it. ‘The senator and his wife, believe it or not, disagree on some issues,’ Traynham said. ‘This is a case between her and her attorney and her chiropractor. It has nothing to do with Senator Santorum.’”

A few weeks later, in January 2000, the judge in Virginia set aside the jury’s award, saying the $350,000 was excessive and reducing it to $175,000.

We wish Karen Santorum only the best of health, but for Senator Santorum the question is: What happens to the millions of people outside his own family whose pain and suffering he clearly doesn’t feel?

His web site ( says: “Legal reform is an important issue that I place high on the agenda in the 109th Congress, as it is crucial to curb lawsuit abuse.” His press release says: “Senator Santorum has supported 3 prior attempts to pass medical liability reform including measures targeting the plight of OB/GYN’s and emergency room doctors. Democratic opposition prevented the measures from moving forward.”

Of course. When all else fails to explain, blame the “Democratic opposition.” But when you expose the gap between what he says and what he does the simple, inescapable fact remains: Whether it’s public school funds or medical malpractice lawsuits -- Rick Santorum has made a regular habit of separating the personal from the political by trying to get more for his own family than he apparently thinks other families deserve.