The average physician spends 1,548 sleepless nights due to malpractice claims. And would you have guessed this statistic? One in 14 doctors are sued annually for malpractice, according to a study reported in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine. So, that isn’t “new news,” but Medscape’s malpractice report, “The Experience of Being Sued,” is a good, new read—or view, as it’s presented as a slideshow here. You will learn much more about doctors and malpractice suits. Almost 1,400 physicians sued for malpractice weighed in for this data, and some of the results may surprise you—others will not.
Behind the scenes of suits
The top four specialties sued most often were internal medicine, family medicine, ob/gyn and psychiatry.
- Failure to diagnose was the most common reason for a lawsuit.
- 41 percent of found the experience upsetting, but they were able to function.
- 74 percent were surprised to be sued.
- 28 percent spent more than 40 hours on defense preparation.
- 35 percent of suits settled before trial.
- In over half, the plaintiff received no monetary reward.
- 62 percent of doctors thought the lawsuit result was fair.
- (Ready?) 93 percent said saying “I’m sorry” wouldn’t have helped. One doctor responded: “I felt like saying, ‘Kiss my…'”
- 91 percent said their patients didn’t know about the suit.
- 63 percent said they had no long-term emotional or financial effects from the suit. One physician said, however, “It hangs over your head for years, causing you to second-guess everything you do.”
- Respondents listed the worst things about their trial. “The judge fell asleep during the trial,” wrote one doctor.
- Doctors gave each other advice, like this: “Get rid of irate/demanding patients ASAP. I fire them if they are rude/irate to my staff for silly things, as it’s just a matter of time before they will treat me the same. Get rid of high risk, noncompliant patients.”
The most enlightening segments of this survey show us that doctors are people, too.