Jan. 29, 2012
Doctors, Lawyers, and Our Health - Part 1
This is a 2-part post I wrote with my friend Natala about doctors and our health. Below is my view, as a lawyer, and this afternoon you can read Natala's view, as a patient.
When I still practiced as a lawyer, I did medmal defense (medical malpractice defense). The law firm I worked for represented doctors who'd been sued by their patients. Since each case involved millions of dollars and a doctors reputation (and sometimes, his ability to continue practicing) most of the lawyers in the office worked primarily on one case so they could be knee deep in it, know it inside and out
However, because my law office was very hands on and collaborative, even cases I wasn't assigned to, I knew a lot about. While some of the cases sounded pretty legitimate, others would make me say to myself, “I really can't believe people can sue a doctor for that!”
One case, for example, the patient injured themselves at home and didn't seek medical treatment until months later when the pain was still nagging and persistent. The patient ultimately needed surgery, but because it had been so long, and the condition worsened, it was much more tricky, with more risks for complications during and after the surgery. Unfortunately, the patient experienced those complications and sued the doctor for malpractice.
The case hung on whether or not the surgeon was “too tired” to be performing surgery (since he'd been working for a few hours before the patient showed up in the emergency room) and whether the doctor should have used one piece of technology over the another. Both pieces do the same thing, one is just fancier.
I could empathize with the patient – of course I want the Cadillac over the Honda in the OR and I'd prefer a doctor who just showed up for work, but that isn't always the case or the option. Maybe I was jaded because I was a medmal defense attorney, but it seemed to me that a patient could sue a doctor for anything... but in a recently talk with Natala, I realized there is one thing doctors don't seem to be sued for, and it really got the gears in my brain going..
The question is, can you sue a doctor if they give you bad nutrition advice? It seems silly, right --- if your doctor gave you bad advice about what to eat, could you really sue him or her for malpractice?!
But what if the nutritional advice they gave you actually hurts you? Then could you?!
I'll stop here and let Natala tell you her story this afternoon – get the patients perspective as well.