Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On being sued for malpractice

An Emergency Medicine professor vents his spleen:

It felt very personal when they questioned my honesty, morals, and intelligence. It felt personal when they didn't miss a chance to accuse me of recklessness, stupidity, arrogance, and laziness. It felt very personal when they asked for an award far more than my policy limits, and I, as the sole defendant, had to imagine the possibility of losing my house, retirement savings, and kids' college fund. Through a stroke of luck, the jury returned a decision for the defense. No one will convince me that on another day, a different group of 12 people could not have found me guilty, and awarded my future to the plaintiff.

It was simply luck that saved me. I sincerely believe that. It is of little significance that I felt and still feel that I cared for the patient as well as any good emergency physician, but the patient died, and his death demanded that someone pay. With a lottery mentality, the plaintiff's attorney put expectations in the plaintiff's minds of a fair compensation. That fair compensation was totally removed from the real world finances in which we all live.

The medical facts of the case mattered very little.

This is a must read.


Michael said...

I too was sued years ago for missing a diagnosis of a disease the patient did not have. I spent a year anxious and stressed. The financial piece was a concern but the notion that I was accused of incompetence was almost if not more troublesome. For most of us being a doc is not just what we are but who were are. I truly understand what you went through and can only offer my solution. For the 15 years since then I make myself available to any defense atty who wants me to help. It is what we all need to do to support each other...that and vilify any doc willing to work for plaintiffs!! I hope you get past this quickly.

Aussie Doctor said...

I agree with what Michael said, and I have had similar experiences. However I must take issue with his suggested vilification of plaintiff's expert witnesses. In my job as Medical Director of a group of 24 small hospitals in country Australia I do see occassions when an error leads to damage to a patient, and I believe that the patient deserves compensation. We should be honest in our assessments. I frequently suggest to legal firms who seek my opinion as an expert witness for the defense that they advise the liability insurers to pay up. If a doctor is acting in good faith, he or she should not be vilified for holding a different opinion to my own.

Anonymous said...

"The medical facts of the case mattered very little."

Then why did they render a verdict for the defendant?

Jeanette said...

Thank you, Aussie Doctor, for having the guts to speak up. Injured patients should be compensated and not be thrown against the old-boy's club wall of silence. This is not a we against them issue. It's about doing what is right and if that means fessing up to making a mistake & doing right by the patient, then so be it. Doing anything else is simply bad medicine.
Jeanette Bartha