Five Doctors Tell 'How I Survived After Being Sued'

Mark Crane


April 26, 2017

In This Article

'The Trauma of Being Sued Never Leaves You'

Stephen Metz, a gynecologic surgeon in Springfield, Massachusetts, was sued by the estranged son of an elderly patient who died of a heart attack 2 days after he operated on her.

"She had a known cardiac condition and we did what we could to minimize the risk. Her EKG and cardiac enzymes were normal upon discharge. The allegation was that I should have known she'd have a fatal heart attack."

"My first reaction was shock and anger. I'd worked very hard for this elderly sick patient. Her son, who had nothing to do with her care, was accusing me of being a bad doctor. I also felt some doubt about what happened. There are always things you wish you could have done better. Did I cause this? It's hard to figure out when you can't talk to your colleagues."

"The allegations in the lawsuit made it seem like I was the world's most terrible doctor. It was 7 years from the filing of the lawsuit until the trial. Most of the time was spent waiting to give my side. At the deposition, the plaintiff's attorney kept trying to get my goat, to blurt out something I'd regret. It was a highly stressful business."

"My attorney gave good advice: do not lose your temper during depositions or at the trial. Your nerves are on edge and it's not hard to be provoked."

"After many postponements, we finally got to trial. It was difficult not knowing what the jury was thinking. I was worried the jury might be moved by sympathy for the son. I wasn't at all confident. Thankfully, the jury understood what I was saying and found that I wasn't liable."

"I have a very supportive wife and family. Without them, I couldn't have gotten through this ordeal. I know of some medical families that have broken up because of a malpractice suit. But in my house, I was still honored. It was a big help."

"Since the trial, I tend to be more careful in how I document the patient's care. I do more to make sure the patient and her family are aware of the risks. I'm quicker to get confirmation from a consultant in areas that aren't strictly within my expertise. Also, I never operate on someone whom I've seen only once. I make sure to get to know them better and let them know me before an operation."

"I'd advise other doctors to have confidence in themselves. Nobody wakes up in the morning intending to harm a patient. Remember why you became a doctor. Review your records and be helpful to your attorney."

"The stress and trauma of being sued lasts for a long time. It's always just below the surface. Being reminded of it brings it all back again. It really never leaves you."


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