Medical Malpractice Politics In The Doctor’s Waiting Room Is A Bad Idea

An article appeared last week in the Kingston Daily Freeman (Doctors put lawyers on defensive) about a postcard/poster campaign by the Medical Society of New York State, accusing trial lawyers of causing excessive malpractice insurance rates and driving doctors out of practice.

About those posters and fliers? It’s a bad idea for doctors for three reasons:

First, the single biggest reason that unhappy patients call lawyers, based on my 20 years experience representing patients, is bad bedside manner. A complication or bad result of some type occurred, and the patient didn’t get answers they deemed satisfactory. They are angry. (The subject of doctor apologies cutting down on such legal inquiries was posted last night by Paul Levy at Running a Hospital) Brochures complaining about lawyers is not what unhappy patients want — they want answers.

Second, a lawsuit is not the first thing on many patients minds when something goes awry. There is no shortage of people who contact lawyers years after the acts they complain of, often after the statute of limitations has passed, and only after a discussion with a friend or neighbor put the idea in their head. Placing the idea of malpractice front and foremost while they wait to see a doctor may be very counterproductive for these patients.

Third, complaining about an expense of the medical practice (insurance, which is the subject of the political campaign) simply invites a discussion of revenues. An expense that is 3% of revenues, for example, is different than one that is 30% of revenues. Do doctors want to answer questions about their revenues?

Just a few things to think about, all of which become ever more important depending on the amount of time spent in the waiting room, and the amount of face time spent with the physician. If waits are long and face time is short, the physicians may be doing themselves a disservice with this type of politicking. Their next stop might be my office.

(article tip via Overlaywered)

(Eric Turkewitz is a
personal injury attorney in New York)


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