Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Impending Lawsuits

We've just started receiving lectures on the legality and ethics of medicine, and already we're all very aware that we are all going to get sued, inevitably, and soon.

One of my tutors, a family practitioner, told me that of all his friends in plastic surgery, each and every one of them has at least one pending lawsuit at all times. If one gets settled, there's always another one that is ongoing.

So every time I've heard of a doctor getting sued, I've started taking a mental note as to what they did, so that I won't do it. Here are a few of the mental notes I've collected.

  • If a patient needs blood to save their life, and they're carrying a Jehovah's Witness card saying "no blood," don't give it to them.
  • If you're putting in a central line and you put the needle in the wrong place, pull it out before adjusting the angle; moving it around inside will cause it to damage important nerve tissue.
  • If you have gotten a patient to sign a consent form, it doesn't mean they've given consent. They can still pull their consent after they've signed the form, and the verbal dissent is what's legally binding.
  • If someone tells you "Come help, someone is having seizures," don't reply, "Bring them here." If they're a reasonable distance away, failure to attend is professional misconduct.
  • Don't diagnose things outside your office for your friends. Bad, bad, bad. If you do, don't forget to say, "If it gets worse, go see a doctor."
So you can understand why a post about lawsuits on a blog that I read and enjoy is one that I will undoubtedly read and remember.

EDIT (11/23) - Follow-up to this post here


Anonymous said...

I went to Med school in Canada and trained and work in US (Big Mistake!). Unless you plan on moving to the US to work, I really think you needn't worry about all the Malpractice dribble you read on the internet. Having worked in both systems, it's like Apple's and Oranges. In the US, they sue for any bad outcome, or to take advantage of the corrupt system to win money, like a lottery. In Canada, lawsuits rarely occur and when they do and are successful it is for BLATANT malpractice. In the US I have to worry that if I have a violent, intoxicated patient removed from my ER his family will sue me when he runs out and uses more drugs and hurts himself in the process; this would NEVER be a consideration in Canada. So learn your H & P skills well, you'll need them working in Caada. You can't just order an MRI on every patient you see.

Charity Doc said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charity Doc said...

Most of the time (in my case all of the time) you do everything appropriately but people still sue you. Sometimes for frivolous monetary gain, as many people see us as rich professionals with deep pockets who can absorb a li'l lawsuit. "Oh (that doctor) is insured." I hear this nonchalant comment all the time. The majority of time, though, people sue because of bad outcomes that were truly beyond our control. Bad things happen, but some people cannot accept nor can they understand that. We are not superheroes who can stand in front of the moving train of diseases, aging, death, etc...and stop it with our bare hands. However, these bad outcomes are often completely avoidable. The reason is that, bottom line, some people take no responsibility for themselves. They don't get their Rx's filled or noncompliant with their medications. They don't follow up as instructed or referred. They don't return for re-evaluation like we tell them to until it's too late. They don't follow discharge instructions. They continue abusing their bodies with drugs, cigarettes, alcohol...And when the sh*t hits the fan, they wonder why they have a bad outcome and start pointing fingers. These poo poo for brains plaintiffs cannot understand that medical school and residency training do not teach us how to read crystal balls.

Vitum Medicinus said...

"poo poo for brains plaintiffs"... wow!

I'm not sure why I'm so entertained by how jaded you are, when it will likely soon be my own reality.

Anonymous said...

Give the Jehovah's Witness card-carrier blood unless you have, in writing, documentation of their statement that they do not want the blood under any circumstances. Better to be sued for keeping someone alive than for letting them die.

Otherwise, you don't know for a fact that they didn't just steal that wallet from a Jehovah's Witness.