Five Doctors Tell 'How I Survived After Being Sued'

Mark Crane

Disclosures

April 26, 2017

In This Article

Thinking Twice About Helping Colleagues

"My relations with colleagues changed somewhat. The lawsuit made me think twice when a colleague asks for help. When someone wants a 'curbside consult,' I decline more than I used to. I don't know the patient or family. It's become harder to be agreeable when I'm called in at the last minute."

"I felt vindicated at the jury verdict but wondered why we had to go through all this when I knew I didn't do anything wrong. The plaintiff had already received settlements from workers comp, but that's not admissible as evidence. The jury sees this injured person but has no idea that he's already been compensated."

"Don't expect to go back to work the day after your malpractice trial," he says. "The feelings are still too raw. My trial lasted 10 days. My wife advised that we take a week-long vacation after the trial, no matter how it ended. That was helpful. It took almost a year before I could see patients in a nonadversarial way."

After being sued a second time a few years later, Dr Wuest decided to give up surgery and is now the chief medical officer for health plans in Oregon. "That lawsuit played into my decision to change careers."

"One funny thing was when my attorney advised my wife on how to dress for the trial. He warned against a surgeon's wife coming to court with a Gucci bag and diamonds, etc. He told her to dress conservative and tastefully. We joke now about her 'courtroom collection' of serious suits."

 
Getting sued is just a part of doing business in medicine. It doesn't mean you're a bad doctor; it's just your turn.
 

"My tip for other doctors is that you have to have someone in your corner to talk with. My wife was wonderful. Unfortunately, getting sued is just a part of doing business in medicine. It doesn't mean you're a bad doctor; it's just your turn."

An emergency department physician in the Midwest endured a lawsuit that went on for almost 7 years and was ultimately decided by the state supreme court.

The patient had several strokes that left him almost totally disabled. In the hospital emergency department, the physician, who asked not to be identified, had to decide whether the patient needed a clot-busting medicine. In cases such as his, studies have shown that the drugs are contraindicated.

"My first reaction to the lawsuit was concern about how the patient was doing. I hadn't seen him in almost 2 years. I firmly believed that I did everything I could for this patient and met the standard of care."

"The lawsuit affected just about every moment of my being," the physician explains. "I thought about it on every shift and with every patient I met. I was often ill tempered; my moods would go up and down. That upset my girlfriend. But she stuck with me throughout, and that helped a great deal."

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