Friday, December 29, 2017



Got my first heating pad the other day. No longer do I have to borrow antique varieties with electric cords as rigid as steel cables and the stiff pads with more edges than a toy box.
 I pulled it out of the gift package, savouring its suppleness and six settings including one that turns it off after two hours.
I beamed over this Sunbeam product ... and then I read the large enclosed sheet about "IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS DO NOT DESTROY." There were 24 rules in large capital letters (anyone who has taken typography courses as I have is taught that 'all caps' reduces readability) but I suppose the lawyers who advise about how to reduce lawsuits over body harm from products have never studied print.
Wow! I can just imagine the lawyers having a victory dinner after billing HUGE SUMS  for these cautious rules which include, I imagine, since I lost interest after wading through the early warnings, what happens if you are hit by a dying satellite while using the pad or if you fall into a crack left by an earthquake.
Rule #2 is DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.  Which certainly would eliminate much of my use over the years. I searched for an alarm in case I nodded off but there was none in the box.
Rule #4: Do not use on A PERSON WITH DIABETES, A PERSON WITH POOR BLOOD CIRCULATION...So that eliminates me and many of my friends and neighbours.
And on and on, from always unplugging the pad to doing a thorough examination of every last cm of pad and power cord before every use.
Just in case people really did throw away that sheet, the main rules were actually printed on the pad too so that diabetics would know that these pads were banned along with such chocolate joys as Turtles.
The reality is that anyone who has neuropathy(loss of nerve sensation in extremities) must be careful around all heat. But we don't slap warning labels on water tanks and many other devices to remind diabetics to take care they don't scorch or burn or even blister. Surely every one of us understands from childhood about the need to guard your skin from harm from excessive heat.
Ironically, one standard advice from doctors about discomfort or inflammation caused by neuropathy is to apply heat. But these lawyers say not with a Sunbeam pad. Find one that liability lawyers consider to be safe if used the sensible way, that is at a low setting unless you are monitoring alertly.
I realize the media are filled with stories about huge awards by juries for plaintiffs scalded by hot coffee in a restaurant, those who swallowed a foreign object in pop,  or were supposedly harmed physically by use of the product. There aren't as many stories about the many awards being quashed by higher courts, the judges there not as gullible as the juries in the courts beneath them who are quite willing to soak giant corporations.
Except enough settlements survive to spook the business world, particularly pharmaceutical giants, so that every ad in the media for the latest wonder drug comes with so many warnings about who shouldn't use the pill that there is hardly enough room to list the benefits.
The liability wars have certainly made their way to the main stages of politics. In the U.S., the Democrats are said to be  more supportive of plaintiffs and the liability lawyer industry than Republicans but no real reforms to limit excess awards have survived so this liability charade continues.
All the alarms, caveats, notifications and threats that now accompany even the simplest product, which range from the silly and obvious to the obscurely legalistic, mean that people like me don't even bother to read every word of the cover-your-ass language. So we might miss helpful suggestions.
Those medical ads on TV and in magazines have become more ludicrous than useful. You would think that only a 35-year-old person who has just passed a two-day physical at the Mayo Clinic should consider taking a new pill but they must be in an OR with a surgical team ready to spring into action if there is the slightest pause in breathing or heart beat.
Since I am kvetching about the child-like nature of these warnings, let me end with a child-like joke which is the oldest one I know about the legal profession. What do you call a group of lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start!

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