San Diego city councilman Bill Mitchell's bad glaucoma operation

Lost vision in the eye

— Former Republican San Diego city councilman Bill Mitchell, who was once quoted as saying that the fire department could save money by not answering false alarms (he said the attribution was false), has become a poster boy for a campaign to raise the state's cap on medical malpractice payouts. "Bill's troubles began in 1998, when the 70-year-old went in for a glaucoma operation," says a profile on the website of the L.A.-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a group that is spearheading the effort to increase the amount of money juries can award in such cases. "The ophthalmologist left him instructions: call him immediately if he had redness in the eye; a discharge; pain; or loss of vision. One morning a few weeks later Bill looked in the mirror and said, 'Oh my God! I have all four symptoms.' "

After a five-hour delay, Mitchell said, he saw the doctor and was finally operated on twice but ultimately lost vision in the eye. He was unable to sue, according to the foundation's account, in part because California's $250,000 cap on damage awards discouraged lawyers from taking the case, and he subsequently dropped the matter. "I was shriveled into a shell," Mitchell is quoted as saying. "I felt like an old man." Adds Mitchell, "You can't trust doctors and the medical facilities. They don't always help you. They'll use any legal manipulation to keep you from being compensated.... I don't trust the bastards anymore."

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