It has been well documented, (and by none less than the Mayo Clinic,) that stress and depression take a toll on both the physician and his patients. Medical malpractice suits, whether founded or baseless, extract a huge price from the targeted physician. For starters, he or she will start questioning all diagnosis, prescriptions and procedures, everything that he or she does — and not in a good way. The erosion of self-confidence can paradoxically reduce the quality of care that patients receive. (1)
Then there’s the cost in time and effort to defend against the claim. Even if a physician acknowledges that there was a legitimate human error, that’s just the beginning of a long, drawn-out process. The doctor can be forced to attend to all of the legal wranglings.
Even though he is covered by a first-rate malpractice policy, this just covers the direct costs of defense. The doctor will never be reimbursed for the hours spent attending to the claim. In the U.S., anyone can sue anyone for any reason. Even if the patient sincerely believes the doctor “did wrong”, that doesn’t mean that he was negligent. Or that another doctor would have done performed differently. Seventy-five percent of all medical malpractice suits have been shown to have no merit. Patients often forget the doctor didn’t cause the malady; he’s just trying to diagnose and treat it. And if the condition can’t be cured, the doctor’s task is to make the patient better, or even just comfortable.
Given these things, it’s no wonder that some doctors and carriers prefer to pay a token amount to make the patient and attorney go away. On the surface, this makes sense. This seems to incur less time and money than a full defense. Unfortunately, greed is a powerful motivator. Once attorneys know a doctor or carrier will settle a nuisance suit, the number of those frivolous suits quickly begins to rise. Now what?
Enter Medical Justice. The organization was founded by Jeff Segal, a physician who saw how unfair it was to attack a healer that way. Since 2002, Medical Justice has taken a strong stance against baseless malpractice lawsuits, holding proponents of such suits accountable. Medical Justice proactively educates on how to avoid such suits. It also launches counter-claims for all of the damages, all the time, emotional distress and harm to the doctor, his practice and reputation — all of the results of the meritless allegation.
If someone files a frivolous claim against a Medical Justice member, the organization works to make the doctor whole for the misery, the time and effort, and damage their baseless claim causes.
In short, Medical Justice causes attorneys and patients to think twice about filing a meritless suit against one of their members. Dr. Segal’s organization isn’t saying that patients who are negligently harmed don’t deserve compensation. They do. But it is unjust to try to extract money from a doctor if he wasn’t negligent. In that case, doctors can and should fight back. Medical Justice stands ready, willing and able to do so, to fight back, and stand on the doctor’s side in an unfair Medical Malpractice Suit.
1- NY TImes, July 9, 2009, “When Doctors Make Mistakes”