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    I’m facing my first malpractice lawsuit. I got the news last Friday and I’m stunned. Help… how will I get through this? How long did your suit go on for? Did you discuss feelings with colleagues? I’m not sure about my lawyer – how do I know I’ve picked a good one?

    Thanks…. anon


    Hi womandr,

    I was fortunate to have been dropped from the only suit I’ve been named in thus far, so I have yet to personally experience the irritation of a medical malpractice suit. Stats show that it’s just a matter of time – virtually every physician deals with this at one time or other, particularly in certain disciplines.

    My colleagues who have been through it tell me that it is an absolutely disruptive experience. You wake in the morning and go to bed at night mulling it over and over in your mind.
    They seem to stretch on for years if it goes to litigation. We had a new staff surgeon who had to fly back to New York three years after he started, to finish an ongoing suit related to a case he’d seen in the ER while moonlighting as a resident.

    In general, I think word gets around that you’re involved in a suit (missed work, phone calls, etc.) so talking about it with trusted colleagues probably won’t do any harm, and may help. Because standards of care and medical practices vary so widely, most lawsuits are ultimately shown to involve a bad medical outcome rather than actual gross negligence of duty or incompetence (the definition of medical malpractice). Talking to colleagues may help you sort out how defensible your case is.

    Your hospital’s attorney(s) could be helpful in choosing your representation. They know the law community in your town – who’s good, who’s not, and your hospital has an inherent interest in seeing that a physician on staff with them isn’t found guilty of malpractice.

    Hang in there. There’re more people in the same boat with you than you probably realize.


    Hello anon,

    Boy to I see where you’re at right now! You didn’t mention your situation in detail (I assume on purpose). I faced a suit early in my career, I was pregnant when it started and it went on for 11 months. I asked my physician friends and more of them had been through it than I imagined – you’ve done the right thing by posting here. I had an excellent lawyer (thankfully through my employers, although we did decide to settle.

    My advice is to take a deep breath, focus on other things when you can and live through it. I also had friends whose suits were dropped quickly – but don’t get your hopes up.

    Good luck and let us know what happens (if you can).


    Hi womandr,

    I have also experienced being handed papers for a lawsuit that occured while in residency. I was sooo embarrassed 😮 and stressed and anxious!!! I also had heard to expect it at some time in our career- but when it actually happened- man what a blow. You start to second guess your every decision. I even thought about giving up medicine- why bother with all the stress.

    My insurance company provided the lawyer for me. She was very helpful and answered my questions- it was amazing to me how many people are sued every day- it isn’t expensive to file a lawsuit.

    Well I was fortunate to have my case dropped for lack of a case- but the experience sure brought me to tears.

    Hang in there. You are not alone although you might feel that way. Talk to your lawyer and your colleges. they will probably understand more than you think.



    Thanks very much for the helpful comments. I don’t seem to have a choice about the lawyer, although I don’t warm to him he has a good track record. He seems reasonably confident that he can make it go away. I spoke to one close colleague today who was truly wonderful. I’ll reveal the information on an as needed basis. I’ll see what happens, thank you again. I’ll keep you posted. I think I am going to focus on trying to relax, of course this all happens when I have a lot going on at home too.

    Thanks again.


    This is a really devastating but common event. I was first handed a lawsuit only 2 years out of residency for a residency event. I was dropped from that but got sued again while in practice. This was horrible. It involved the death of an eighteen month old who choked on a bean three days after I had diagnosed him with acute gastroenteritis. The child came in with vomiting and fever, no cough. Autopsy showed a right lower lobe pneumonia and a bean lodged at the bifurcation of the trachea. The allegation was a missed pneumonia caused by a lodged bean that was subsequently coughed up to its lethal position. The supposition was that if I had diagnosed the pneumonia that the bean would have been found. It went to trial (a total nightmare)and I was found guilty of malpractice. I felt like a murderer and had been convicted. I walked out of that courtroom with the resolve that I would never touch another patient again and immediately quit my job that day. It was very traumatic.The decision was ultimately thrown out on appeal and the case was settled by my insurer who did not want to pay for another trial. Meanwhile I was completely devastated. My confidence was shot and even looking back I still feel I could not have done anything differently with the info I had at the time. There was no one to talk to. Not even the local medical society. I went into a deep depression and was anxious when I did resume my medical career out of financial necessity. I ordered xrays on every child under four with vomiting and fever (during flu season this can be burdensome). I still have not gotten over it and it has been almost five years. Never the same. Want out of medicine still. Not worth it. Sorry to be so glum but you can do the best job in the world and when there is a bad outcome you still are the heavy and justice may not prevail.


    I was sued for something I was extremely peripheral to in residency. I was amazed at how stressful and awful it was to just be deposed, and then dismissed. I dread getting my first real suit, and I feel for you. The story about the choking on the bean is so terrible. One other awful thing – my understanding is that you can’t talk to colleagues about your suit, without risking them being called up as witnesses in the trial. This is at least true in California. I am not sure if there is some way you can talk to someone in a protected way (other than your spouse). Good luck!!!


    Reading all these postings really scare me and this is something that I have often thought about-getting sued. I am still an undergraduate and applying to med school in 06/03…often I ask myself,
    “do I want to deal with the HA’s from the stress of being responsible for someones life?”
    Obviously, I am willing…it just really pisses (sorry for the wording) me off when lawyers are willing to sue medical instituitions or personnel for any little thing. It makes me even more mad when society at large thinks that doctors are “God” who could perform miracles.THIS IS NOT THE CASE!!! Doctors try their best…and they cannot do it all. That’s why it us up to the patient to also be actively involved in their healthcare. Sorry for the trials and tribulations some of you have gone through….your in my thoughts. 😡


    This brings back so many painful memories! I was sued right out of residency for an occurence in my residency (FP). Still get lightheaded when I think of it, though it was settled out of court. The process lasted about 2 years, and there was no closure.
    My malpractice insurer provided a lawyer, and he was helpful to me, told me I wasn’t alone, that many very good physicians get sued, if you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t doing anything, etc. It still was a painful process.

    What got me through was the patients that appreciated me, and the memories of the times I was effective in giving good care. The good really does outweigh the bad, though it doesn’t seem so at those times.


    Any update?

    You should be able to talk in confidence to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or minister. Also, Physicians On Line, is restricted to physicians only and you can post anon. Might help to get some more sympathy and understanding from other physicians. The web site is below.

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