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The Physician Defendant Experience

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The Physician Defendant Experience

By William Berry, MD, CRICO

Related to: Emergency Medicine, Primary Care, Obstetrics, Other Specialties, Surgery

It is a Monday morning and, as you are about to begin seeing patients in your office, your receptionist tells you that there is someone out front who wants to see you. You walk out expecting to see a patient or a family member and, instead, a stack of folded up papers is pushed into your hands. You have been served with a summons. There is a terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. You never thought that this could happen to you.

Becoming involved in a malpractice suit is a universal fear shared by physicians. The feelings brought about by actually being served suit papers are also universal…and normal. Fear, doubt, guilt, and loss of confidence are common. Fear of the unknown—what will happen to my house or my savings? Fear for one’s reputation—what will my colleagues or my family think of me? Doubt regarding your skills. Doubt regarding your judgment. Guilt for whatever happened that you might have prevented. Guilt for whatever happened that was not preventable. Ultimately, you may face a loss of confidence in your ability to care for patients.

The road to resolution is often a long and tortuous one, with seemingly endless emotional ups and downs. Many times it is a lonely road, too. You try to talk with your spouse, but it’s difficult for him or her to really understand. You are tempted to talk with colleagues, but dread their criticism, or drawing them into the case.

Fortunately, all of this natural emotion and anxiety can be countered with information—you just have to ask for it. Your attorney and the people at CRICO/RMF can provide rich sources of useful and necessary information. They can offer you with resources that can help you dispel the unknown and face the future armed with facts and good advice. Remember that your attorney and the team who help you through this process are seasoned professionals who have offered similar assistance to others facing your situation. To take full advantage of what they know, remember that no question is a foolish one and many of your fears (while real feelings) are not founded in reality.

Consequently, it is important for you to stay connected with the facts during this time of emotional upheaval. There is life—and patients—after a malpractice case. The key is to prepare yourself with knowledge, recognize that you are not alone, and believe that you will get through it.


April 1, 2008
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