Covering my Behind – Shelby Sun

It is not the calls from patients or the hospitals that keep doctors awake at night, but it is the risk of a potential malpractice lawsuit.

Nearly 1 in 2 doctors has been sued. Nearly, 3 of 4 doctors in practice for more than 10 years have been sued. Almost all the cardiac surgeons in Tennessee have been sued. Are these all bad doctors? Much like the cost of health care, medical litigation has spun out of control.

Dr. Wiley Robinson, the newly elected president of the Memphis Medical Society, presented these statistics and then his agenda for tort reform. The voices were put into action when three Friday’s ago, a bus load of physicians from Memphis went to the state capitol to show their grievance with the present malpractice system.

Last month, Dr. Edward Hill, a family physician from Tupelo, Mississippi and the president-elect of the American Medical Association, came to Memphis and talked about improving quality of care. Yet, he pointed out that the critical question of tort reform must be addressed as well. He feared that the US Senate may again kill yet another malpractice reform bill, like it has done in the past several years.

In part, as a doctor asking for malpractice reform appears to be self-serving and even selfish. I will admit … yes, doctor do make errors both through ignorance or through negligence. And yes, patients are possibly injured due to these errors. However, we must find a balance between the legal and the medical professions.

As doctors, often in our practice, we are  “watching our back” and “covering our behinds,” because a lawsuit can be psychologically devastating. Nearly 1 in 4 doctors who is sued described it as the “single must stressful period of their lives.”

I don’t know how to fix it, but our medical malpractice system needs to change urgently.

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