Physician malpractice deposition observations

Emergency physician WhiteCoat continues the chronicles of his concluded malpractice trial.

A recent episode focused on the deposition at the plaintiff attorney’s office. Along the way, there are observations on whether doctors with thick foreign accents make good witnesses (according to WhiteCoat’s lawyer, “juries are not very forgiving of foreign doctors”), or if the bathrooms were bugged. Cloak and dagger stuff.

But importantly, with the deposition focused on whether WhiteCoat ordered more timely tests, or more urgent consults, he begins to question himself.

In fact, when thinking about how he treated his recent patients, he writes that, “My doubts sometimes affected my clinical practice. I noticed that especially with critically ill patients, I tended to worry as much about the potential liability I could incur as I did about the patient’s medical problems. For a while, I found myself practicing defensive medicine – almost as if I would be able to compensate for this lawsuit by being ‘extra careful’ with future patients . . . I can’t think of one instance in which those hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra tests made any difference in the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. All they did was penalize the patients on whom I ordered them.”

Folks, that is the defensive medicine mentality in action, and as President Obama himself says, we need to “scale back the excessive defensive medicine reinforcing our current system of more treatment rather than better care,” and that, “these changes need to go hand-in-hand with other reforms.”

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