I have never been involved in a medical malpractice case, but I have recently been the victim of a sociopathic legal abuse situation entirely not related to medicine. It involves a no-good attorney with the ethics of a camel, a multiply convicted felonious sociopath, and his long series of victims including his own prison guards who he is suing because his feelings were hurt.
As my small part of it, I have had to accumulate huge legal expenses from my side. I have asked my attorney how he can tolerate a legal system that allows itself to be the tool of a manipulative sociopath against the innocent, and why he doesn’t do something to eject from the legal profession the no-good complicit attorney, who knows his client is a sociopath and joins him in lying across the board.
But do I have credible ground to stand on in my complaint to my attorney? Can I tell my attorney his system sucks and he should be embarrassed by it? How about I first look at my own house, my own profession?
In the law, the client knows how much he is going to have to pay to his attorney per hour of work, even if he despises that the work needs to be done. In medicine, our patients don’t have a clue what they will be billed, and we cannot tell them.
In the legal system, a client can readily find a lawyer who will charge a lower hourly rate. In the medical system, there is essentially no price-based competition, profound moral hazard, our hourly rates are broadly unknown, and pay is controlled by CMS and CPT codes and a morass of insane price controls that is incomprehensible and unethical and impossible to be sure of.
In the legal system, an attorney bills for the time he works to assist his client. In the medical system we bill our clients not just for what we do to help them, but also for the cost of the administrative support staff, coders and compliance officials whose job is to twist the order of codes to maximize how much our patient has to pay us.
In the legal system, a client can choose to represent himself. In the medical system, our patients aren’t even allowed to obtain their own cholesterol lowering drug without our approval, and if they dare try to buy them from abroad, they are deemed criminal and may be subjected to the legal system.
The legal system’s victims at least have the time to think, to plan, to comprehend. The medical system’s victims often are sick, miserable, and are entirely at our mercy. The legal system provides the potential for cost transparency. The medical system? None.
I am not forced to buy legal insurance. I am forced to buy health insurance.
The legal system is horrific and evil and destructive to the innocent. Our medical system, layered with insurance companies, lack of transparency, unnecessary controls of patient freedom to obtain medications, and compulsion to buy health insurance to fill the crony-corporate coffers of a sick industry, is so much worse.
I have no credibility to complain to my attorney that the legal system sucks and lacks ethics. Mine is worse.
But I have now left my system in the dirt, because of the system’s lack of ethics. So, now I can have the higher ground. And maybe my writing can help make the changes.
I wrote a funny novel called ASSUME THE PHYSICIAN to help us all see where our medical system is not just poor, but ethically unacceptable, like the legal field. I hope that a satirical novel to which we all can assuredly relate might help us get on the same page regarding the loss of the simple honesty and ethics of the profession we love and that is so worthy of admiration. We must first know to laugh at it, before we can fix it.
I hope my lawyer someday gets to laugh at his horrible legal system the same we must learn to laugh at our horrible medical system.
John F. Hunt is a physician and author of ASSUME THE PHYSICIAN: Modern Medicine’s “Catch-22″.