I am a middle-aged, full-time emergency physician, and part-time law student. Usually, I practice medicine during the day and attend law classes in the evening. Sometimes I have law classes in the afternoon or early evening then work in the emergency department all night. So, what’s harder: medical school or law school? Absolutely the most common question I am asked by physicians, attorneys, and students at all levels of training. The other most ...

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An excerpt from Technology and the Doctor-Patient Relationship. As disturbing as the structure of malpractice insurance is in America, a more significant problem is the defensive style of medical practice it induces. In a large-scale survey done by Jackson Healthcare in 2010, between 73-92% of physicians self-reported ordering unnecessary ...

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It’s hard to describe the feelings I had when I received my first letter of intent to sue. I think I went through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief — denial at first, of course. This denial didn’t last long since the letter was clearly addressed to me — first, middle, and last name. Anger was almost immediate … I was immediately upset at the deceased patient’s family who were bringing the ...

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I was struck by a post by Dr. Saurabh Jha about his views of the jury system — as some of his comments mirrored things I’ve said to juries in the past. Some things he got right, which go to the core our civil justice system. Some things, however, not so much. His perspective comes from growing up in India, which doesn’t exactly have the most efficient of justice systems. And ...

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The one thing doctors want to avoid like the plague is a lawsuit — a medical malpractice lawsuit. To be sued means the doctor loses precious time from work, endures emotional personal and family distress and is unable to fully invest oneself in providing the very best medical care possible. It is a dark cloud that hovers over the majority of physicians at least once in their lives. Some medical specialties, ...

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An excerpt from Med Mal. The attorney for the plaintiff leaned forward, rocking precariously at the edge of his chair while I studied him. Comfortable in my leather armchair on the other side of the table I kept up my observation, somewhat amused although mostly unimpressed, as he betrayed ...

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I’m sitting on a cross-country flight to California with utmost respect for the professionalism of the crew, especially considering my life will be in their hands for the next 6 hours. Despite understanding the physics, I am still amazed by flight, and even more so by the coordination required to manage the logistics of shuttling so many people and their luggage around the world. As health care leaders apply a business ...

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"In a case that could have wide-reaching implications for medical practice in Minnesota, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling on April 17 in the case of Warren v. Dinter holding that the existence of a physician-patient relationship is not a prerequisite for a medical malpractice action. Rather, a person may sue a physician for malpractice – even if that person was not a patient of the physician – if the harm ...

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Twenty years of defending doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice cases has made me into a nervous patient. When you see the worst, you look for it. At least I do. That’s why when I was scheduled for a minor elective procedure, I was nervous. I set aside the day, canceling all of my depositions and planning to spend the day on emails and phone calls. My specialist’s office texted ...

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On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after liftoff, resulting in the death of the entire seven-person crew. The subsequent investigation revealed that a joint in the right solid rocket booster failed during liftoff, which occurred due to the inadequacy of the O-ring seals. It was about 28-degrees on the morning of the space shuttle launch, and the O-ring seals were not designed to perform at such ...

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A New Mexico woman, suffering from Dercum’s disease (adiposis dolorosa) which causes painful fatty tumors, is suing a Santa Fe hospital and an emergency physician claiming she was the victim of two negligent acts in 2016. One, according to the Albuquerque Journal, she told hospital personnel she was allergic to Dilaudid but went into cardiac arrest after receiving an injection of the drug. Two, despite the presence of a lawfully ...

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An excerpt from Wrongful Deaths. “We will name Memorial Hospital, Dr. Julie Stone, Dr. Vijay Gupta, and ICU nurse Tracy Miller in a malpractice suit involving the wrongful death of Ivy Jackson.” Venjer appeared apologetic. “But Dr. Torrins is correct. It ...

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I’m struggling — truly struggling. This year has been beyond hard. I honestly never thought this time last year that I would be in this predicament. Things were good, I had a great job, and I was working on our fixing up our dream retirement home. We had great vacations every year. Yes, the home remodel wasn’t quite on track, but we were making progress. But then, my world fell ...

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The medicine I practiced between 1974 to 1992 is gone. Evidence is the coin of the realm in the courts of modern medicine. The rule “first, do no harm” demands a corollary — be paranoid. We receive extensive training and licensure to “touch” patients. Any person who is not a physician who cuts into another person commits a very serious crime. The same is true for merely talking with a person, ...

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I do not feel that I truly survived my lawsuit. Sure, I am alive, but the emotional toll it took on me during the four years that we co-existed was tremendous. That being said, I do feel that it taught me several things that may be helpful to others. My lawsuit occurred very early in my career. The series of events that led up to it happened when I was a ...

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In July, 2009, the family of Massachusetts teenager Yarushka Rivera went to their local Walgreens to pick up Topomax, an anti-seizure drug that had been keeping her epilepsy in check for years. Rivera had insurance coverage through MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid insurance program for low-income children, and never ran into obstacles obtaining this life-saving medication. But in July of 2009, she turned 19, and when, shortly after her birthday, her family ...

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What is evidence? How do we gather evidence of patient harm? More importantly, what is the evidence that counts? A research paper dating back to 2004 suggests that besides research evidence, clinical and patient experiences, as well as contextual information also constitute evidence. However, the only currency of science is data collected through systematic and rigorous research. But when it comes to the business of medical error,
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Several years ago, a colleague of mine did a procedure on my daughter. What was supposed to be routine has become a nightmare for her.  When he saw her post-op, he told her she was fine.  Because of this obfuscation, years went by before she really understood how damaged she was. By then, the statute of limitations had lapsed and she had no recourse. Still seeking closure on this disaster, my daughter ...

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The vast majority of births and deliveries are joyful ones. Families celebrate the wonder of the new addition to their families, and clinicians go home at the end of the day with a sense of pride, deriving meaning from their professional lives. This is one of the reasons that many of us chose obstetrics in the first place. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. As an obstetrician, I know firsthand ...

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Nothing troubles physicians more than an unforeseen outcome and a malpractice lawsuit. It cracks open self-doubts and assumptions about medicine and may be life-changing. It commonly fuels burnout, loss of confidence, PTSD and early retirement. And there are links to depression and physician suicide. There's another side to this story, though. Like all of life's great challenges, a patient's unexpected loss, and professional litigation present us with huge opportunities for growth. I am ...

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