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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