Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Medical malpractice (2)

I am following Flea's malpractice story and the many comments about his posts.

When doctors complain that lawsuits are often "about the money", we are very aware that we all work for money. That is fine. And that is not what we mean. What we mean is that the financial incentive, the possibility for a large financial gain sometimes is the primary incentive to start the lawsuit. It is a chance to cash in, nothing else. Sometimes it is not about truth, justice and all that. We are not saying that lawsuits should not happen at all, we are not saying that all lawsuits are unjust and unfair. But we are saying that too many are unfair. 75% are decided in favor of the defending physician. What does that tell you? Successful, experienced lawyers will tell you that they review 10 to 20 claims before they take on one single claim! And of the ones they take 75% are not successful. Does that explain why physicians feel threatened and overall treated unfairly? Any more questions?

Example: A patient of mine tried to sue me and spoke to her primary care doctor about the situation. She told him: "I like him, but we just need the money". It could not be clearer! It could not be more plain and blunt! "We just need the money". What a great reason to sue a doctor! And this actually happened to me.
This attempt, by the way, never went beyond a request for medical records. Unfortunately for her, my documentation of our talks before the surgery was extensive.

Physicians do not say that lawsuits always are about money only, but it is sometimes. And this is very upsetting to us.

I did a little statistic of 120 ObGyns in South Florida that belong to one large group. Some of them practice in Miami Dade and some practice in Broward and some in Palm Beach County. The colleagues in Miami Dade work without malpractice insurance and the others work with malpractice insurance. Six % of the colleagues WITHOUT malpractice insurance had paid money after a judgment during the last 10 years and 19% of the colleagues WITH malpractice insurance had paid money after a judgment. Coincidence? I do not think so. More research is definitely needed. This is difficult, since (unfortunately) there are not many areas where you can practice without liability insurance.

Here is some anecdotal evidence, gathered through conversations with several lawyers in South Florida. I came to realize that lawyers are very, very hesitant to sue someone who does not carry malpractice insurance. Can’t get the millions! Representative quote of those conversations: “I did it once and I could not collect, so I worked for months and months for nothing. I will never do that again.”
Lawyers will not try to sue if there is no chance of a big cashout. They will rather tell clients that they "do not have a case”.


Anonymous said...

So you went to med school and you're still stupid enough to think anecdotes equal evidence? GREAT.

ObGynThoughts said...

Aaahhh, I seem to have hit the spot. You learn, in medical school and in life, to be honest and declare where you get your knowledge from. I simply stated that in the case of this single post - and in a blog hardly anybody reads - I did not bother collecting the evidence and used anecdotal knowledge. Which is perfectly fine. Dear anonymous, did you notice that you are reading a blog? What does blog mean to you and why do we read and write blogs? If you want pure evidence all the time, read a textbook. I am stupid because???
What is much more likely, I have hit the spot, I have touched a sensitive point, and anonymous got upset. Good, I wanted to touch a sensitive spot. It makes for a lively discussion. I'll write more about it in the future.