Frivolous Lawsuits Are Scaring Away Good Doctors

June 29th, 2007.

A good 10 years ago, I had surgery. Without divulging too much information, let’s just say I was particularly nervous about the procedure I was undertaking. So as I was being prepped to be put under, I asked my Doctor an earnest question.

“Could I die from this today?”

Very casually, he replied, “Oh yes. It is absolutely possible you could die in surgery today.”

I waited for a moment for him to say ‘But it’s not likely’ or ‘But we’re going to take really good care of you’ or anything remotely resembling a somewhat comforting statement, but he said nothing else. If they had not put me under shortly after, I probably would have run screaming from the operating room. I was terrified.

About 8 hours later, I woke up convulsing. My boyfriend was in the room and he called for a nurse who came in and checked on me. She fretted over me for a few minutes and let me know I could go home soon. I wanted to see my Doctor and ask him how my surgery went but apparently, he had gone home for the day.

Eventually, they loaded me up with painkillers and sent me on my merry way. I was ordered to keep my bandage in place for a few days, but the curiosity was killing me. Finally, I peeled back a corner and took a peek. It looked fucking horrible. Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I sobbed when I saw it. Believe me, I am a woman with more scars than the average hockey player, so for me to react this way, you know it had to be bad.

Even though I was upset about the wound, I remembered what a prick my Doctor had been right before my surgery, so I was leery to ask him about it. Finally, I just flipped through a phone book until I found a regular Doctor and made an appointment with him. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to make my scar less Frankenstein-like.

I met Dr. B for the first time the following morning. He was a bit younger, as far as Doctors go, but immensely skilled at his job. Instead of breezing into the room and breezing out 5 minute later while notifying me of a prescription waiting for me at the front desk, he actually sat down and talked to me about my surgery. He expressed honest-to-goodness concern during our conversation which is something I had never seen in a Doctor before. When I told him who my surgeon was and about my experience right before I was put under, Dr. B laughed and said my surgeon’s bedside manners sucked.

Finally, I showed him my scar. He squinted a little and said, “That does look bad. But honestly? It’s probably because this area is such a tender place.”

My eyes welled a little. “What can I do about it?”

“You can stop worrying,” he said, “I really think this will heal nicely. Give it about 8 weeks and you’ll see. It’ll be nice and flat by then.”

“Really?”

“Really. If you want, you can get some vitamin E caplets, squeeze the ointment out and rub it on the scar. It likely won’t make much of a difference, but it might make you feel a little better.”

From that moment on, Dr. B become my regular family practitioner. He was easily the best Doctor I ever had. For one thing, he always sat down and talked to me about any problems I was having. I’ve noticed with most Doctors they are in and out of the room within minutes. For another thing, Dr. B actually took the time to treat me. In the past, I’ve had Doctors who wouldn’t even look closely at a rash before pawning me off on a dermatologist. Dr. B was different; he wasn’t a referral machine. He never sent me anywhere else unless he was absolutely sure he wasn’t equipped to handle whatever I was experiencing. I was dog loyal to that man for years.

A few years after the scar incident, I called the office to make an appointment with Dr. B for my yearly physical. However the receptionist told me Dr. B was no longer at the clinic. Of course I asked her where Dr. B was practicing now so I could track him down, but she informed me that Dr. B had moved to Texas. Heartbroken, I asked her why he left.

Breathlessly, she whispered, “Insurance is too expensive in this state. You know how it is with frivolous lawsuits and whatnot. A few of the other Doctors are thinking about relocating, too.”

Thus ends the story of how I lost the best Doctor I’ve ever had because frivolous lawsuits are driving up the cost of insurance to unreasonable levels. As usual, those of us who are out to make a quick buck are refusing to see the bigger picture in how we treat the medical community.

Now when I use the term ‘frivolous lawsuit,’ I do mean frivolous. I am not faulting people who sue the bonehead Doctors who sew their patients up with a pair of scissors left inside of them.

What I am talking about are the people who sue Doctors claiming that their breast implants caused autoimmune disorders without any scientific proof. Or the guy with the pregnant wife who sued his Doctor because his vasectomy failed only to find out his wife was actually pregnant with another man’s baby. Or the thousands upon thousands of people who want a windfall because they happen to suffer from mysterious back pain. Even though most of these cases are eventually dismissed, the Doctor still has to spend thousands of dollars in defense legal fees and usually takes a tremendous blow to his reputation.

The end result?

A nationwide survey found that roughly 67% of doctors have stopped providing childbirth services due the incredible costs of malpractice insurance. Drugs like Bendectin have been taken off of the market even though there was never any convincing scientific data there was anything wrong with them. Hell, I can’t even get good drugs anymore because certain people ignored their Doctors recommended dosage, took too many painkillers, and became addicted. Even worse, we have fewer and fewer Doctors who confidently treat patients without giving them the runaround because they’re afraid to make one false move without 10 other Doctors available back them up.

A lot of this can be chalked up to simple greed, but in some cases, the issue is that modern day adults lack the ability to deal with any sort of tragedy. Somewhere along the way, we quit informing people that shit happens. Sometimes people get sick and sometimes people die. Most of the time, this isn’t anyone’s fault. Doctors do the best that they can, but they’re not miracle workers. However, rather than grieve and move on after suffering a family tragedy, people instead look for someone to blame. Since they can’t take God to court, they tend to point the finger at their Doctor.

As much as I feel bad for people who suffer, this shit has got to end. When good Doctors get attacked because people lack the coping ability to deal with personal tragedy, society as a whole suffers. Not only that, but when greedy people dominate the courts, it makes it that much harder for people with legitimate beefs to be heard.

All in all, we need to understand that frivolous lawsuits are harming the medical community in often irreparable ways and we are losing good Doctors are a result. If we continue to chase all the competent physicians out of the country with pitchforks, who will care for us when we fall ill?

By the way, Dr B was right about my scar. It ended up healing quite nicely.

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    […] What I am talking about are the people who sue Doctors claiming that their breast implants caused autoimmune disorders without any scientific proof. Or the guy with the pregnant wife who sued his Doctor because his vasectomy failed only to find out his wife was actually pregnant with another man’s baby. Or the thousands upon thousands of people who want a windfall because they happen to suffer from mysterious back pain. Even though most of these cases are eventually dismissed, the Doctor still has to spend thousands of dollars in defense legal fees and usually takes a tremendous blow to his reputation. http://www.violentacres.com/ar … scaring-away-good-doctors […]