A topic that I am too familiar with is malpractice. In my career, I have experienced three lawsuits, so I feel very qualified to express an opinion on the subject. To begin with, I think that the term “malpractice” is a misnomer. In my experience, most medical lawsuits revolve around medical mistakes and not malicious behavior on the part of the physician. Perhaps I am wrong, but I believe that the term “malpractice” implies some form of deliberate misuse of medical knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a patient has a right to expect some form of justice, if they were hurt or wronged by a physician, but rarely is it obviously deliberate.
Another point that I would like to make is that in a medical lawsuit, the jury has no medical training, and thus are at the mercy of the “expert” witnesses that are presented by both sides in the dispute. Initially, in my career, I thought that the object of the lawsuit was to obtain the “truth” about what happened. This was incredibly naïve. The expert witnesses are “bought” by the lawyers and the outcome is often determined by which side puts on the best show. In one of my lawsuits, I was told by my lawyer that all of the medical articles that I had obtained to support my decision would just “confuse” the jury. It appears that it is not about truth, but showmanship. The constitution guarantees a “trial by your peers”, but that is not the case in malpractice. The prosecutions experts imply that everything the defendant did was wrong, and the defendant’s experts insist that everything was, in fact, correct. The jury just doesn’t know. It is not their fault.
In my second lawsuit, I never even saw the patient. I told this to the attorneys at the beginning, but I was sued anyway because they found my name in the chart. After three years, many depositions and great expense on my part, one of the attorneys looked up and exclaimed “you had nothing to do with this”. I agreed and all charges were then dropped.
Malpractice has become a “lottery” and too much time by the physicians is spent “dodging” lawsuits. In addition, a lot of expensive tests are performed, simply for the lawyers. Perhaps it is time to re-think medical lawsuits and what we, as a society, are trying to accomplish.