Washington, DC—The Today Show's Health segment on April 24, 2008 with Matt Lauer and Dr. Nancy Synderman, Dr. Synderman attacked our civil justice system by calling for tort reform in order to increase life expectancy. The connection between the two issues is haphazard at best and also mimics attacks by big business pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Synderman's attack on our civil justice system is just the latest round of unsubstantiated claims by the health industry which fail to acknowledge other factors like rising insurance premiums. While consumers are paying higher premiums, insurance companies are reaping the benefits of large profits and reducing services.
Also troubling is Dr. Synderman's connection with the pharmaceutical industry as a past corporate executive for Johnson and Johnson and a paid speaker for America's Health Insurance Plans – the health insurance industry's largest lobby group. In addition, the fact that Dr. Synderman vacated her role as a health care correspondent for ABC after revelations that she was paid to endorse Tylenol, illustrate a pattern of a conflict of interest.
Last week, the pharmaceutical industry came under fire in the Journal of the AMA and New England Journal of Medicine for ghostwriting studies and influencing journalists. Dr. Snyderman's misleading and inaccurate statements are right out of the industry's playbook.
The Today Show is a well respected and well watched program which Americans trust to deliver fair and accurate news. The misleading and inaccurate statements by Dr. Synderman are taken directly from the playbook of drugs companies who are looking to avoid accountability. It compromises journalistic integrity when correspondents like Dr. Synderman are paid by the same industries they are reporting on.
Unfortunately, television viewers witnessed Dr. Synderman's one-sided attack on our civil justice system and were not provided with the opposing view. If we assume tort reform would stop the rise in health care costs, Dr. Snyderman should take note that medical malpractice accounts for only 2% of health care costs, according to the CBO. Dr. Synderman's news report which promotes attacks on our civil justice system are not worthy of a nationally respected program like the Today Show.
--American Association for Justice
Below are additional letters the Center for Justice and Democracy and Texas Watch sent to the Today Show on Dr. Snyderman's comments.