Four Out of Five of Us Have Been Sued — What Now?

If this is the "cost of doing business," we may just all go broke...

Four Out of Five of Us Have Been Sued — What Now?

The CORRelations “Chart of the Week “Four Out of Five of Us Have Been Sued” really got me angry. I absolutely am convinced that medical liability lawsuits impose a heavy cost to the healthcare system beyond their financial impact. I believe they destroy the careers of many competent and caring physicians. The CORRelations chart points out that:

1.     The risk is higher for specialists (like orthopaedic surgeons)

2.     Physicians win 90% of the cases that go to trial

3.     Good communication is the key to avoiding lawsuits

We sometimes hear that being sued is just part of the “cost of doing business” in our profession, and although many authors and speakers have suggested that we should just work on our communication skills with patients and swallow the inevitable suit(s) we will face, I’m not OK with this.

The vast majority of orthopaedic surgeons I know work very hard to deliver the best musculoskeletal care to patients every day. To suggest that four out of five of them deserve to undergo the massive stress of a medical liability lawsuit is inconceivable. Even though our specialty has more applicants that residency slots, I have to believe that some of the smartest potential applicants would see statistics like that and choose other professions. That’s a terrible opportunity cost for our subspecialty and the patients we’re charged with caring for.  

Many of my friends have been sued; I’m sure the same is true for you. I’m equally sure that no one who has been sued would characterize the experience as the “cost of doing business.” One of the best orthopaedic surgeons I have ever known had her career essentially destroyed by a medical liability suit. She was adored by her practice community, and the horrors of this suit caused her to stop practicing altogether, and so deprived that community of a great, caring surgeon.

As a specialty, we have to say “ENOUGH”! Here’s how to do that: