George Hossfeld, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, on is medical malpractice experience:
It felt very personal when they asked for an award far more than my policy limits, and I, as the sole defendant, had to imagine the possibility of losing my house, retirement savings, and kids’ college fund. Through a stroke of luck, the jury returned a decision for the defense. No one will convince me that on another day, a different group of 12 people could not have found me guilty, and awarded my future to the plaintiff.
There is no way the term winner can be applied to me. With luck, survivor is all I hope to realize.
Physicians do not advertise the fact that they are being or have been sued because they know that it is a slur on one’s reputation. The secrecy with which we treat the issue serves to underscore that point.
Silence contradicts all we know about stress management. Stress causes anxiety, isolation, and helplessness, and has led some to suicide. Enlightenment through exposure would go a long way in removing the stigma associated with its very name.
The public has been told that malpractice occurs to those few bad doctors, and that the rest of us have no experience with it. It’s hard for them to have much sympathy when that’s the case. What an epiphany it will be to find that their doctor, in fact, all of their doctors have experience with being sued! Now that’s a horse of a different color! Exposure will lighten the shame, disgrace, and dishonor that we have falsely granted it. Exposure may create a groundswell of disgusted colleagues who are going to demand change.
Speak the Unspeakable: ‘I Was Sued for Malpractice’ [Emergency Medicine News:Volume 31(1)January 2009p 3, 16]