Sunday, April 09, 2006


I took a foray from medicine the last two days into the legal world. A former employee of our hospital, not happy that he was changed from employee to ex-employee a few years ago, did a typical American thing: he filed a lawsuit. The problem is that he doesn't have a case, and I'm not saying that just because I work for the hospital; he really has no basis for his allegations.The two sides agreed to have the claim settled by binding arbitration, which is a hearing like a trial, only less formal and in front of an arbitrator instead of a jury. Since I was involved in the decision that made him an ex-employee, I was present for the hearing. I find the law interesting and was curious to see how it all worked.

Unfortunately, I found the legal world, or at least this part of it, a little distasteful. Our attorney was trying to trip up the plaintiff and make him look bad, and the plaintiff's attorney was trying to do the same to the hospital and its witnesses. What a way to live, trying to make people look bad. Our hospital has spent $30,000 to $40,000 on legal fees so far, and the plaintiff's attorney has racked up about $50,000 in charges and expenses, all for a case without any merit. No product has been made, and really no service rendered. It's a colossal waste of human effort.

It was almost surreal. Nobody seemed to want to hear the whole story. Both attorneys just wanted answers to their questions, no more, no less, and whether the whole truth came out or not didn't seem to matter.

This post is not meant as a broadside against the whole legal profession. I know that lawyers are necessary for our system of justice and that in many cases they do a great service for people. In this case, though, our legal system looked tawdry. I had to work in the hospital the evening after the second day of the hearing, and it was almost nice to have to work, to be out of the legal world. I was glad to be back on my own turf.


Blogger Flea said...

I've been living in this world for 2 years.

I recommend, if you are so inclined, every day when you wake up give thanks that you are a doctor and not a lawyer, and give thanks you have not been sued.

(...or, if you have been sued, pray it's all over with soon)



2:44 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Flea: Yes, I'm very thankful.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Charity Doc said...

As an Emergency Medicine guy practicing at a high volume county hospital, I face tremendous liability risks. It is true when they say, "It's not a matter of if but when." 8 lawsuits over 15 years is not bad, one would argue, considering that I see anywhere from 40-80 patients/day when on duty. But then again, 1 malpractice suit is already too plenty. Although all 8 cases were horribly frivolous, found to be without merit and finally dismissed in court, it was still an emotional rollercoaster of restless sleep and hassling with my own attorneys each time I refuse to settle out of principle.

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