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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.

Monday, December 19, 2005


In this quiet year of my life I've passed several milestones. This year marks my twentieth anniversary as a gastroenterologist. I'm thankful that the field still provides me with challenges and is a source of fascination, no less now than in the first year of training.

This month I picked up my younger daughter for the last time at college. She went through on an accelerated program, cramming four full years of school into three and a half. I'll miss her school's beautiful campus. I won't miss her school's tuition payments.

Part of my daughter's final studies involved taking a personal finance course, or "Getting ready for Harsh Reality 101". Part of her assignment was to review our car insurance, including deductibles, limits of coverage, etc. I either wish I'd done the review three years earlier, or not at all. I had no idea I have a $100 deductible on an old junker I own. I had forgotten about a fender-bender my wife had been in 5 years ago. And they said it was all her fault. Bummer.

Just then I realized I had passed yet another milestone: it has been five years since anyone has sued me for anything.

The lawsuits are ever with me, so it came as a shock that it has been that long since I received that frightening letter:

We are reviewing these circumstances to see if there is any merit to the suit that the plaintiff is now pursuing. We are definitely suing some other doctors involved in this case. Could you be next?

I suspected that the function of this letter was to see if it could prompt me to call the attorney and offer to turn "state's evidence" and give inside information/dirt on the other doctors in order to save my own hide. My own attorney agreed.

"These guys do that all the time, and some doctors fall for it. I'm glad you didn't. It would have voided your own coverage, you know".

I knew.

It's been five years since then. I wish I could say that I'm such a better risk because I'm better as a physician, but I'm not. I'm certainly more cautious. I avoid high risk patients like the plague; I dismiss any patient I catch lying about anything. I'm just better at avoiding lawsuits, I suppose.

If I've learned anything, it's that no one is going to give me a good citizenship award for working 16 hours a day as a matter of habit. The wisest thing I've done is to see myself as a retired physician, one who is no longer able to work because of unavailability of liability coverage. So what do I do with myself now? Who knows, but life will surely go on.

Until then I will enjoy my practice but will keep taking Wednesdays off to go mountain biking. I won't come in on Saturdays for out-patient procedures so that the patients don't have to burn a sick day. I'm going biking with my son then.

And I will, as always, keep up with the literature. The field is just too interesting to go along as a bystander.


Blogger Judy said...

No point in spending your Saturday at the office when you could be with your son. Your patients might appreciate that they don't have to use a sick day, but not nearly as much as your son appreciates your presence - even on those days when he doesn't act like it. I hope you have good weather!

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""These guys do that all the time, and some doctors fall for it. I'm glad you didn't. It would have voided your own coverage, you know".

I knew."

Interesting that actually helping the plaintiff determine if the case has merit would void your coverage.

10:51 AM  
Blogger J. M. Branum said...

Maybe if doctors policed their own profession and got rid of the bad apples there wouldn't be so many malpractice lawsuits.

The medical profession has no one to blame but themselves for the pickle they are in.

2:33 PM  

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