Taking a deeper look at frivolous lawsuits. “At the same time, Smarr says, unsubstantiated malpractice suits take a heavy emotional toll on physicians, because the doctor’s reputation and professional capabilities have been called into question. The resulting distraction adversely affects the delivery of healthcare, says Smarr, who believes that overzealous lawyers play a major role in exacerbating the malpractice crisis. ‘All you need to do is read the highway billboards and you know that plaintiffs’ lawyers are out there fishing for patients,’ he says.

Smarr also makes the point that physicians are being sued because patients have unrealistically high expectations regarding the effectiveness of new technology, and are apt to feel aggrieved when those expectations aren’t met. He cites mammography as an example of a contemporary screening technique that has become a major source of unfounded lawsuits.”

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  • Anonymous

    “Smarr also makes the point that physicians are being sued because patients have unrealistically high expectations regarding the effectiveness of new technology”

    Why is the medical establishment surprised that people have higher expectations when pharmaceuticals, medical products, even hospitals and individual physicians are marketed to say this or that one is the best?

    To get the patient, and the money, in the door, they have no problem touting their lifesaving and curing skills, but as soon as there is a problem all that anyone hears is that “there are no certainties” and “medicine is an art”, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Do a brief surway of the medical websites (patient information) and see how many of them mention flaws in tests, or have an open discussion of benefits vs risks.
    Since the article specifically mentions mammography, do a brief surway of web sites and find how many websites extol its virtues and how few explain the flaws. How many websites of various clinics provide numbers that grossly overestimate the benefit, how many frame the benefit to make it sound like it is greater than it really is – using relative vs absolute percentages or using lifetime risk of getting a deasese instead of a 10-year risk just to scare us.

    Now, I understand if an individual doctor may fear future lawsuit if he tells a patient something that will cause a future lawsuit. But rewording articles on medical websites is not likely to cause lawsuits, giving sligtly more cautious interviews to journalists doesn’t cause lawsuits either. If you want to change people’s perceptions – take care of the ads of the clinics you work for and be less optimistic in the interviews you give to the media.

    You doctors led us to believe that anything can be cured if caught early enough. So don’t be surprised if many of us believe it.
    This article sums it all just great, but very few pay attention:
    http://www.imagingeconomics.com/library/200411-02.asp

  • Anonymous

    So really, why do people sue? Talk to anyone who works with med-mal claims and they will probably tell you that anger and poor communication are the single biggest predictors of litigation. Not outcomes, not technology, not fancy-schmancy advertising.

    There’s only been one time I ever considered suing a doctor, and it was *not* over the outcome, it was because the guy was such a horse’s patoot. FYI, the situation involved a rather nasty medical injury, and the arrogance and stonewalling just made it worse. Ultimately I didn’t sue or even file a complaint, but like the doc in the post above this one, I sure view the system differently now.

    Don’t get fooled by all the finger-pointing at advertising, the media, patient expectations and all the rest of it. At the end of the day, what it really comes down to – what we all want the most – is the human touch.

  • Anonymous

    “Smarr also makes the point that physicians are being sued because patients have unrealistically high expectations regarding the effectiveness of new technology”

    A tragic but amusing situation taday. While trying to nicely explain to a family that a loved one was brain dead and that one treatment alternative would be to withdraw life support they were all incensed that a “brain transplant” could not be done. They then became all convinced that we would not perform this because the loved one was uninsured and was a minority. The gentleman was overweight, smoked, had diabetes and suffered anoxic brain injury after a prolonged cardiac arrest. The family wanted to know “whose fault it was” so they could sue. Some anger and incoherence is understandable during a time of mental shock, but it also does reflect on the expectation and mindset of society.

  • Anonymous

    What’s interesting about that last point is that the family immediately thought of suing. It illustrates mostly the effectiveness of tort reform advertising. Nationwide, tort claims are down and payouts are down. But people believe, thanks to tort reformers claims, that anyone can sue for anything and make a million dollars from it.

    Most lawyers who actually practice doing plaintiff’s work will tell you that much of their work initially is in lowering these false expectations. In the same way people want to know why they can’t get a “brain transplant”, they want to know why their soft-tissue injury that resolved in 6 weeks isn’t worth $100,000, and they’re equally upset with their lawyer as they are with the physician above.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    While trying to nicely explain to a family that a loved one was brain dead and that one treatment alternative would be to withdraw life support they were all incensed that a “brain transplant” could not be done.
    This is so hilarious – it really worth to be an episode on TV. You could’ve told them, sure would you like to be a donor? or The only brain we have available now is the one from serial killer on death row.

  • Anonymous

    “What’s interesting about that last point is that the family immediately thought of suing. It illustrates mostly the effectiveness of tort reform advertising.”

    Slick move CJD to blame this mindset on tort reformers and not the continuous barrage of billboard, newspaper, radio, and TV advertising by trial lawyers that shout “I will fight for you, get what you deserve”

    You are as sick and slimy as they come

  • Anonymous

    Stop it, you’re making me misty.

  • Anonymous

    agreed. Can you say James Sokolove.

  • Anonymous

    “Why is the medical establishment surprised that people have higher expectations when pharmaceuticals, medical products, even hospitals and individual physicians are marketed to say this or that one is the best?

    To get the patient, and the money, in the door, they have no problem touting their lifesaving and curing skills, but as soon as there is a problem all that anyone hears is that “there are no certainties” and “medicine is an art”, etc.”

    You seem to have trouble distinguishing what individual doctors tell patients vs what hospitals and HMOs say in TV commercials.

    The only people touting mammograms and that other stuff is hospitals. Individual doctors for the most part dont pimp that stuff. They advise their patients to get them perhaps, but they dont ramble on and on about how great it is. So if you want to sue somebody for false advertising, go after the person who is really making the claims. Instead you try and skew it to somebody else who didnt make those claims at all. Nice lawyer trick.

  • Anonymous

    So individual doctors receive no benefit from those claims? They’re just innocent bystanders? Hospitals rankings, which they tout so loudly, aren’t based in part on the physicians that work there?

    What an amazing profession. Make lots of money, don’t give people a way to rate whether you are good or bad, claim you are excellent at what you do, advocate for no liability (with increasing success), and when you do screw up, say it’s an art, not a science, and sometimes bad things just happen.

    Good work if you can get it.

  • Anonymous

    “Good work if you can get it.”

    I haven’t talked to a single happy coworker lately and I ineract with multiple different specialties daily. So you can have the work and don’t encourage your kids to go into medicine either. I am so busy with so many patients that I don’t need any type of advertisement or claims. I don’t need a two page glossy advertisement in the Yellow pages, TV commercial, or billboard touting my claims like a slithering trial lawyer. I don’t think I would be any less busy if I put a sign on the door that said “Caution: You may die or I may kill you in the course of treatment”

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