Mona Charen

 What's really at issue here is product liability. Though it's difficult to detect this in an atmosphere of name-calling and motive questioning, there is a policy difference between the two parties on the matter. Democrats (more than ever with John Edwards on the ticket) believe that there should be no curbs on product liability and other personal injury cases. They argue that the courts are the only recourse for those who've been injured or worse through negligence on the part of companies, doctors or other "deep pockets."

 Republicans argue that personal injury cases have gone too far. They point to the fact that a handful of trial lawyers have become fabulously wealthy by playing upon juries' sympathies for individual plaintiffs -- while the cost is borne by the rest of us.

 Fear of litigation is keeping good drugs off the market (there are no morning sickness or other pregnancy drugs in the pipeline because fear of lawsuits has made drug companies shy). Many doctors (particularly obstetricians) are giving up the practice of medicine due to the steep malpractice premiums charged in many markets. Innocent doctors and others are ruined when patients suffer a poor outcome -- even if there was nothing the doctor could have done to prevent it. And the price of nearly every product we buy is higher than it would otherwise be to cover a liability premium. This is like a regressive tax, since it harms the poor more than the rich.

 Troy has argued, on the FDA's behalf, that when the agency determines a drug or device to be safe, the state courts should not be able to decide the matter. The trial lawyers are incensed. Troy is a tool of the drug companies, they scream. Hardly. Dan Troy pushed through a generic drug rule that amounted to a wealth transfer of $35 billion over 10 years from the name-brand drug companies to the generics and to consumers. But he should not have to defend his honor (which is spotless). His opponents should have to defend theirs -- for engaging in character assassination instead of debate.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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