An MD/Attorney Reveals: 5 Top Reasons Patients Sue Doctors

Lee S. Goldsmith, MD, LLB


October 23, 2018

In This Article

The Patient's Last Resource

4. Patients Are Suing Out of Desperation

The fourth reason relates to the fact that a medical injury might devastate a family financially and emotionally, and they phone us out of desperation. The viewpoint of many physicians might be, "Finances are not my problem or my staff's problem," or "I am a surgeon, not a therapist."

This is understandable, but it's not very helpful. You should know their financial status and render assistance if you can. It's often helpful to work with your patients to develop a payment plan. Patients might also appreciate a referral to counseling services to help them cope with illness, whether their own or that of a loved one.

A patient who is desperate and has huge medical bills or sees their world collapsing will seek help, and that help is often an attorney. Be aware of their issues and extend the extra effort to assist and keep control of the situation.

5. Patients Are Reacting to Your Actions

Finally, don't do anything foolish. Some years ago, a woman called our office because she was being sued for libel by a physician for having called him a "butcher" in front of another patient.

Facts: The physician was an obstetrician who had delivered her child 12 years earlier. The child had suffered HIE (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy) at birth and was severely injured. The woman never considered suing the obstetrician. But when she was a patient again in the same hospital, that obstetrician walked into her room. After 12 years of diapering her child, she had an outburst during which she called the physician a butcher, and then it was over. But the physician sued, and we countersued. The settlement was $2 million. Think before you act.

As a physician, I don't want to see malpractice and I would rather that there be no medical malpractice suits. You as the patient's physician often (although not always) have some control over circumstances. If you mishandle a situation, the patient may go to see an attorney. It's in your best interest to make sure that doesn't happen.


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