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So many lawyers, so little time...

"The prospect of hanging focuses the mind wonderfully"--Samuel Johnson

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Location: Louisville, KY, United States

Gastroenterologist, cyclist, cellist, Christian, husband, father, grandfather.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A modest proposal

If given free rein, I could have the malpractice crisis pretty much straightened out in this country in about a years time. Limiting noneconomic damages is the right thing, but it is only a start.

There are better ways to deal with just compensation for injured patients than we have, and I may expound on them later. Quality control is a major issue, or as my attorney put it, "I think that knowing that you could get sued at any time makes you guys better doctors." It certainly drives up our blood pressure, increases the risk of addictive behaviors among physicians, and forces us to order lots and lots of expensive tests. It also forces physicians coming into their prime to plan an immanent retirement, either from the stress of practice or the inablility to find malpractice coverage. Whether it makes us better doctors isn't at all clear.

Nonetheless, human nature being what it is, we need a strong disincentives to laziness, sloppiness, and permanent bad judgment.

I don't think we really need to spend a lot of money on this. Most of us have lots of ego (have you ever noticed?) and we hate to be wrong, especially in front of others. Nothing would terrify me more than opening up my city's paper and seeing a lengthy article on the case that I mangled beyond recognition. That's actually one of the ways in which I was intimidated into settling. No one wants to see their shortcomings discussed on page one of the Metro section.

For the egregious blunders, I recommend the Abu Graib approach: doctors who really foul up should be made to wear underwear on their heads. Photographs would be printed on page one of the newspaper. Only the most hardcore sociopathic doctor would fail to be kept in line with this punishment lurking about them.

Then the malpractice attorneys, having nothing to do and no visible means of support, can learn useful skills such as massage therapy, dental hygiene, and life-style coaching.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I just recently came across your blog and am still reading it and enjoying what you have to say.

Take care and I wish you all the best.

(who is a she and not a he like most would assume...lol)

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyers would sue a basketball player everytime they missed a shot if there was any money in it. Think about how that would change the game and then remember the medical field has already changed to that kind of game.

3:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One way to survive this mess is for doctors to organize. Any lawyer who files a frivilous suit will immediatley be denied services. Any State government that doesn't propose and enact reforms will be subject to statewide denial of services starting e.g. one hour and progressing to more meaningful intervals.

Another way would be to work for cash only..no Medicare, no Medicaid just cash on the barrelhead.

If that doesn't work raise fees until the insurance(MI) costs are nominal.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am amazed at how similar your story compares with the one I am in. Education has created a system to keep teachers "accountable" by judging us by our students' efforts. If our students fail it is our fault. This is supposed to make me an effective teacher. Instead, all I feel is so stressed and exhausted that I can not teach to my full potential.

9:22 PM  
Blogger JusPasenThru said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that's the case, I know at least a couple of doctors who should be sporting underwear on their heads as I type. At least, that's been happening with my family in the past 6 weeks while a loved one has been in ICU. As for arrogance, well we encountered it in its full-blown form today. Then again, what can we do?

-Daughter the Younger's friend Elizabeth who enjoys reading your thoughts

10:58 PM  
Blogger JusPasenThru said...

Hey Elder Daughter, how come you never come around or write anymore?

Just kidding. John Stossel in the book "Gimme a Break" discusses how every bureaucratic effort to fix problems usually just makes everything worse. Good but depressing reading.

Friend of DTY, there isn't any excuse for arrogance in our field. Sometimes, though, when we're exhausted, stressed out of our minds, and burned out to a small heap of smouldering embers, it's easy to come off as a jerk. I've done it lots (probably got me sued once) so we owe it to our patients to take better care of ourselves. I hope your loved one pulls through.

8:23 PM  

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