Building a Lawyer’s Prison in America, One Pill at a Time

Rodney Johnson | Friday, September 06, 2013 >>

It is the end of summer, and my youngest child is not happy. She knows her days of sleeping until 11 a.m. are over.

She’s a sophomore in high school this year, so this gig is no longer new and exciting. She is in no-man’s land… not a freshman anymore, but not yet a senior… and it’s simply not fun.

As we went about purchasing all the necessities before school started – books, e-books, backpacks, shoes, etc. – the reality of the prison that is high school sank in and she became dejected.

Join the club.

At the same time she was lamenting all the rules and regulations that will be her daily life for the next nine months, my wife and I were going through the thicket of rules and regulations that apply to how a student and family must interact with the school.

There have always been codes of conduct for students. That makes sense. Set the rules and require adherence. But now the rules are no longer about conduct, they’re about limiting liability.

My daughter participates in sports, so she must have a sports physical before she can practice or play. I get that. The school wants to ensure that she’s in good health.

However, now there is a student-athlete handbook and a signature requirement (saying you’ll be a good sport), a heat-related-illness sign-off, a concussion form, a transportation form, a medical-treatment form, and two other forms I can’t even remember.

There are more than 20 pages of legal “shalls” and “shall nots” the kids and parents must sign before the student can step onto a court. And that is just for the gym. For the school building, it gets even better.

Some of the forms required for our daughter to attend school are medical releases. These are separate from the medical forms required by the sports department. On these forms we must list ailments and medicines. Again, I get it.

What seems a bit silly is that we need to fill out this form every single year.

Now, for reference, my daughter attends a small private high school that has less than 400 kids and less than 100 in her grade. They all know her by name – for better or worse. Do they really need to verify that she has the same allergies as last year with a complete, freshly inked form? Can’t we simply mark “no change”?

Then there’s the matter of medicines themselves. This is what really gets me.

For my daughter to take a prescription medication at school, she must have a signed authorization form from a physician.

Hmmm.

One look at the medication bottle will show that the prescription is clearly for her… it’s printed on the front. So why do we need a doctor to write a note that says: “Yes, I prescribed this to her, so yes, I believe she should take the medication I prescribed”?

Because some lawyer for the school has deemed it necessary. That’s why.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Now the school requires that we have a note from a physician before the school will allow over-the-counter medications to be administered. Let’s consider that one for a minute.

Before the school will allow my 15-year-old to take ibuprofen sold over-the-counter, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed safe in doses listed on the bottle, I must get a note from a physician acknowledging that it is okay for her to use it.

This is the same physician the FDA took out of the equation by approving the ibuprofen for over-the-counter sales. So what do I tell my doctor? “Hey, the school is so lawyered up that it requires you to approve something over which you have no control and should not be involved in.” That’s a good opening line.

I don’t blame the school for wanting to protect itself from frivolous suits and the potentially crippling damages that could be awarded, but I think we’ve failed ourselves for letting things get this far… for always wanting a fall guy.

Is there always someone else to blame when a bad thing happens? Is there always a monetary award that will somehow compensate for a tragedy? Does the word “accident” no longer exist?

Until we reintroduce the notion of personal responsibility and the possibility of true accidents back into our daily lives, I fear that the lawyering-up of America will only get worse, clogging the courts with personal-injury cases, driving up insurance rates, and costing all of us a lot more money. Imagine the savings available to all of us through lower insurance premiums, lower administrative costs, and lower health care costs in general if we could remove entire layers of legal costs that exist simply so people won’t get sued.

Hopefully, part of what will happen in this economic Winter Season is a clear review of such policies and procedures so that we can pare them back to a more reasonable level. In the end, that will leave more income in the pockets of consumers, who can use it in a more constructive way.

Rodney

 

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About Author

Rodney Johnson works closely with Harry Dent to study how people spend their money as they go through predictable stages of life, how that spending drives our economy and how you can use this information to invest successfully in any market. Rodney began his career in financial services on Wall Street in the 1980s with Thomson McKinnon and then Prudential Securities. He started working on projects with Harry in the mid-1990s. He’s a regular guest on several radio programs such as America’s Wealth Management, Savvy Investor Radio, and has been featured on CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business’s “America’s Nightly Scorecard, where he discusses economic trends ranging from the price of oil to the direction of the U.S. economy. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University.