Letters from the July 22, 2006, issue of Science News

First, count all the lawyers

The study in “Legal Debate: Assumptions on medical malpractice called into question” (SN: 5/13/06, p. 291) fails to address the more disturbing issue: Most of the insurance money (apparently) goes to lawyers (both sides), and very little to those injured.

Peter Wilson
Simi Valley, Calif.

The numbers in the story pose a question. First, one reads that “about 85 percent of [1,452] cases were settled out of court, and plaintiffs lost four-fifths of those that did go to trial.” This means that about 175 cases went to court and failed. Two paragraphs later, we learn that “236 plaintiffs who did suffer an injury from medical error received no compensation.” The question: Did 61 cases settle out of court for no compensation?

Fred Ramsey
Corvallis, Ore.

According to the study, plaintiffs’ attorneys typically received a standard contingency fee of 35 percent of the indemnity (insurance) payment, if one was made. And it’s true that 236 plaintiffs who suffered real injury traceable to medical error received no compensation. Of those, 170 plaintiffs lost in court and 66 just dropped their case at some point, the researchers say.—N. Seppa

Aye for an eye

Regarding the “new humanmade version of an insect’s compound eye” (“Rounding out an insect-eye view,” SN: 5/20/06, p. 318), it has been obvious for many years that such structures need not be exceptionally small and need not be extremely like ommatidia to behave like ommatidia. Triads of small light sensors can be arrayed in large, wide, and slightly concave or convex panels and hardwired into networks capable of not only sensing but also of tracking motion—in color. Many practical advantages accrue from the fact that such panels do not resemble “eyes” and are therefore ignored by subjects who would be aware of cameras. I find the suggestion that such devices are extremely high tech and difficult to make somewhat disingenuous.

David C. Oshel
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

More Stories from Science News on Humans