A meritless lawsuit in action. This story illustrates why caring for nursing home residents is risky:

I was shocked. After working 12-hour days, through weekends and holidays, always trying to do my best for my patients, I’d been accused of negligence without any basis””and yet I might be found culpable! I still felt bad for John, but thinking about his father filled me with bitterness. What kind of parent tries to make money from his child’s misfortune? What kind of warped system could allow something this unjust to happen? I also felt angry with myself for not seeing the red flags””the long arguments that the father had had with the nurses, his constant criticism, and the fact that John had been shuttled from one nursing home to another.

The suit was ultimately dropped, but not before I had spent considerable time with lawyers and lost countless hours of sleep. The damage to my personal life and self-esteem has been incalculable; the scars may never heal. And, unfortunately, my attitude toward patients has changed. I’ve become more selective about which nursing home patients I see, and I now view every patient as a potential litigant.

Meritless lawsuits have changed the way we practice medicine in this country. If the current system continues there will be no caring healers anymore, and in the end we’ll all lose.

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  • Anonymous

    From the article:
    “The suit was ultimately dropped, but not before I had spent considerable time with lawyers and lost countless hours of sleep. The damage to my personal life and self-esteem has been incalculable; the scars may never heal. And, unfortunately, my attitude toward patients has changed. I’ve become more selective about which nursing home patients I see, and I now view every patient as a potential litigant.”

    I don’t see nursing home patients…..period. It is too bad the doc did not countersue the trial scumbag for a frivilous suit. Until we as docs start fighting back against the BS suits nothing will change.

  • Anonymous

    Boo hoo hoo. Patients should not be falling out of nursing home beds. The patient did fall out of bed.

    By “meritless” I guess you mean the outcome of the fall wasn’t severe enough to prompt a lawsuit.

    I’d sue if my paralyzed kid got a damn bruise, if it would make you fix the bedrail. Patient beds should work, and patients who are incapacitated as John should have working bedrails.

  • Anonymous

    If my kid was paralyzed I would be caring for him at home with my own bedrail not entrusting a loved ones care to someone else so “I could sue if he wound up with a bruise”. Suing is often just one way to try and show you care and cover up for your own inadequacy.

  • Anonymous

    1) Plaintiff alleged the bedrail is broken. That has NOTHING to do with the doctor. But yet the doc was sued anyways. Frivolous lawsuit against the doc. Sue the nursing home maybe, but the doc is irrelevant to the bedrail

    2) Point #1 illustrates that lawyers dont primarily care about who’s to blame, they care about hitting the big pockets (i.e. doctors malpractice insurance). The nurse has more to do with the bedrail than the doctor does, but yet I doubt a single nurse was sued. Take a good guess as to why.

    3) Lawyers claim that bogus lawsuits are rare because it costs money to bring suit and if you bring bad suits you go out of business. That is total BS. Its true that you lose time and money bringing cases, but all you need is 1 successful case out of 20 to make up for hte 19 frivolous cases. YOu can literally have a batting average of 10% win/settle rate and still make a good living. What if only 10% of my patients got better or survived? Would I be able to make a living on that? Doubtful.

  • Anonymous

    “but all you need is 1 successful case out of 20 to make up for hte 19 frivolous cases. YOu can literally have a batting average of 10% win/settle rate and still make a good living.”

    This is true only if you assume one out of every twenty cases is in the multimillions. Which it’s not. If, as physicians and insurers claim, it costs $100,000 to take a case to trial, and since the average malpractice payout is $300,000 or so, well, it doesn’t take a statistician to see that the 1 out of 20 claim is pure idiocy.

    Another illustration of your idiocy is your claim that the nurse wasn’t sued because she didn’t have deep pockets. Since she was most likely an employee of the nursing home, she would have been covered by their insurance, and unless they were going bare, she would have been covered by it.

    Seriously, how does one have such strong opinions on something they have so little understanding of?

    As to Anonymous 9:16, it must be nice to be so financially secure that you could afford to stay home, or have your spouse stay home, to take care of your child. You must be a physician, because only a physician wouldn’t understand that most of the country can’t really afford to do that and pay medical bills, much less keep a roof over their heads.

    As for the physician in this article – this appears to be the typical long whine over some lost time. I bet he really doesn’t like getting his drivers license renewed.

  • Anonymous

    Hey anon 8:29 and 9:42 I know this is a difficult concept for you guys, but where is the docs fault in this? End of story.

  • Orac

    Anonymous 9:42 looks like Curious JD to me. The idiotic comment about the physician not liking getting his driver’s license renewed is the dead giveaway. The two things (renewing one’s drivers license, which everyone has to do, and being named in a frivolous suit). To appropriate and modify anonymous’ rhetorical question: Seriously, how does one have such strong opinions about doctors based on such poor analogies?

    In any case, I was wondering the same thing myself. On what legal and moral grounds, specifically, could the physician be considered legally liable for this particular problem? In the end, the law said he wasn’t, but it’s so obvious that it’s ridiculous that it even made it as far as it did. If anyone was liable, it had to be the nursing home. I can’t help but notice that, in his sarcastic attack the putative Curious JD failed to address the most important point about this frivlous lawsuit:

    “Plaintiff alleged the bedrail is broken. That has NOTHING to do with the doctor. But yet the doc was sued anyways. Frivolous lawsuit against the doc. Sue the nursing home maybe, but the doc is irrelevant to the bedrail.”

  • Anonymous

    “The idiotic comment about the physician not liking getting his driver’s license renewed is the dead giveaway. The two things (renewing one’s drivers license, which everyone has to do, and being named in a frivolous suit).”

    Good call, Orac. Sometimes I get too lazy to sign. But simply because you don’t understand an analogy doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant. Most of the docs complaint was related to the waste of his time, a common complaint among doctors, as if their time is so very precious that they should be exempt from the things that take time that the rest of the world has to endure. It was merely a sarcastic comparison, and I apologize if it was too highbrow for you to catch.

    As far as addressing the merits, that’s simply impossible since we only have this physician’s take on the suit. There may have been a theory that ultimately didn’t pan out. If I sent you a letter detailing my medical problem in as many words as this physician just detailed this suit, could you diagnose it and recommend a course of treatment? Probably not.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    Orac,

    It’s interesting to me that as you so aptly point out in the academic physician discussions how little private practice docs know about their brethren in academia. But you seem entirely comfortable with the notion that physicians have a solid understanding of how the legal system works, despite most having literally no contact with the system, and almost all having never even discussed it with the experts in the field – namely the plaintiff’s lawyers.

    Does this not strike you as odd?

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    Likewise then CJD, how little plaintiff attorneys must know know from the defense side of view, eh?

  • Anonymous

    Sure, unless they’ve worked on the other side. Many have.

  • Anonymous

    I’m still waiting for CJD and his lawyer cronies to explain to me why its the doctor’s responsibility to make sure the bedrails are all working properly.

    What a freaking joke, I cant believe anybody can honestly defend this lawsuit.

    I guess the next thing we’ll hear from the lawyers is that if a machine malfunctions its the doctor’s fault too. I guess we all need to go get engineering degrees and learn how design and fix EKG machines, IV pumps, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Post a copy of the complaint and I’ll explain the theory to you. Without that, who knows?

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    I have the greatest respect and awe for physicians who attend nursing homes. I personally can’t emotionally/physically/financially do it anymore. There are constant ads on the TV from shysters trolling for easy money in nursning home injury cases. And let us not forget the plummeting Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, as well as your skyrocketing costs.

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