Friday, June 23, 2006

On being sued

Got a troubling phone call from a good friend of mine who was just notified that he's being sued by the family of one of his patients who passed away. I don't know any of the medical particulars of the case. I was more concerned about my friend who called me very upset this morning.

You definitely feel responsible for everything that happens to your patients -- even though things may happen that are entirely out of your control. I've never been sued myself, but I can only imagine what he's going through. You cannot help but second guess every decision of what happened. Especially in medicine, there is a lot of grey -- meaning, a lot of judgment calls that need to be made. It's not a slam dunk science that this absolutely needs to happen or that absolutely needs to happen.

With all kinds of lawsuits happening these days, it's difficult to decide to DO something or NOT to do something. Everytime you go and get your prescription drugs these days, you get three pages or more of a side effect profile -- any one of those can happen to your patient -- thereby, they'll be blaming you for the outcome.

On the other hand, what happens if all the signs are iffy and you want to take a wait and see posture? For the most part, the body does heal itself naturally without drugs (like antibiotics) and other treatments we prescribe. What if something bad happens when you do nothing?

Let me reiterate again, I do not know anything of the medical circumstances of this case, and of course, the family of this patient is going through a lot of suffering right now.

It's just that something that is not talked about publicly or privately -- even among doctors themselves -- are our emotions and how we would deal with something like this. He's going through a lot too, and I'm worried about him.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Anon ... there seems to be a lot of that going around ...

Here are some examples:

Dr. Flea --- Negligent, Careless, and Unskillful

Dr. Charles --- Thundering Clouds in January

Dr. Hebert --- Law School

... unfortunately, the subject keeps cropping up. Your friend is in good company.

Dr. Charles has an interesting post today on Healthcare Courts if you're interested ...

I wish your friend luck ...


Just Jess for now said...

Hi Dr. A:
I just stopped by and I am very impressed. Your blog seems much more advanced than mine already and I've been blogging since December. :)
Anyway, I don't know much about medicine from a doctor's perspective, but as a sociology student we have studied the Canadian and American health care systems quite a bit. Of course this does not make me a pro, but I can agree with Moof in saying that this happens a lot more than it should. Good luck to your friend!

Dr. A said...

Jess, thanks for coming back! You've got a great blog, too. I'm glad I only had a few minutes to blog during lunch, or I would have really had a rant going.

Moof, what can I say, You rock! I'm serious! Thanks for all the info. I'll peruse it this weekend...

elaine x said...

well, i suppose if people took more responsibility in their health and well being ... they would have absolutely no one to blame when they died, now would they? to your friend and all the other doctors out there ... aren't you glad you are not the lawyer that would do that to another person? best wishes to him and try to remember one of those great rules ... 'don't take anything personally.'
keep up the good work ... sounds like you are the makings of a thoughtful practicioner ... keep it up.
peace & harmony,
'freedom must be exercised to stay in shape!'