How doctors suffer during medical malpractice litigation

There are no winners in medical malpractice cases.

Patients, of course, suffer the most. But doctors aren’t spared either. It’s been written previously that doctors suffer significant emotional turmoil after being sued, and in fact, a good percentage even contemplate suicide.

In a recent New York Times essay, physician Joan Savitsky talks about her own ordeal. She discusses how being sued affected not only her, but other patients as well:

If [a medical mistake] happens, you have to integrate the experience, but for a while you lose your bearings. It is discombobulating. When this is followed by litigation, the effect can be paralyzing. And the lawsuit felt like an assault. Being sued, even with assurances that “it’s nothing personal” and that my insurance would most likely cover any settlement, was in fact deeply personal. The experience was devastating.

And when you consider that most malpractice trials take years to resolve, not only do injured patients’ families have to wait, the doctor suffers during that time as well.

Our medical malpractice system does injured patients a disservice, and does little to fairly compensate them. Less publicized is how it affects doctors.

Read the essay to get a small taste of its impact.

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  • Supremacy Claus

    There are no winners? Kidding, right?

    The lawyers.

  • Dr. Broderick

    Many doctors are named in a dragnet fashion that had nothing to do with the case, at the great expense of themselves and their insurers. Then, when the plaintiff lawyer finally admits that it was bogus, you have to sign a waiver that you won’t counter-sue. I call that blackmail and a colossal waste of healthcare dollars. Next time this happens to me, I won’t sign it and I’ll show up in court and give those there an earful. Politics start locally, or something to that effect, right?

  • John Skookum

    I think it’s time that the AMA or some ad hoc organization started a fund to countersue the kind of greedy, lazy lawyer scum that names everybody in the chart.

    If they can’t figure out which doctor made a mistake before they haul people into court, then they don’t have a legitimate malpractice case and are engaged in legal terrorism and extortion. They should be expelled from the bar and go to jail, but in the absence of that, I’ll settle for them being hounded into personal bankruptcy by our own stable of junkyard dog lawyers.

  • Carol

    Yes doctors can be wrongly sued however according to Public Citizen 15% of doctors commit 85% of the malpractice.

    My case was in the courts for 14 years (not a typo) The doctor who committed malpractice on me, Dr. Peter Jannetta, was called a perjuror by the Pa Superior Court (“We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta’s testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial.” Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92 Levy v Jannetta et al, No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995″) Nevertheless my lawyer, Michael Fishbein, of Levin, Fishbein, Sedran and Berman of Phila. forced me to settle for such a small amount that you the taxpayer are paying for my lifetime medical expenses (via medicare) resulting from the malpractice.
    (The doctor was named secretary of health nominee by Governor Ridge 3 weeks after the forced settlement, Peter J. Jannetta 1995 – 1996.)

    The “crisis” does not exist. If medical societies and the state sanctioned these recidivist doctors there would be no ‘crisis’.

    Carol Jay Levy

    author A PAINED LIFE, a chronic pain journey
    member, cofounder with Linda Misek-Falkoff, PWPI, Persons With Pain International
    member U.N. NGO group, Persons With Disabilities

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