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Comment and Controversy

Tort reform is the only way to reduce risk of a lawsuit

April 2008 · Vol. 20, No. 04
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“Got malpractice distress? You can help yourself survive,” by Sara C. Charles, MD

The good Dr. Charles has obviously never been sued, or she wouldn’t have given us the same advice she gives children who are reprimanded for doing something wrong. There is no way to ease the pain of a lawsuit, frivolous or not. The statistics are staggering, and the effects of malpractice litigation are far more disabling than she makes out.

When will my ObGyn colleagues realize that only tort reform, spurred by our refusal to deliver another baby, will solve this problem? Why would any intelligent man or woman enter or remain in this field in the face of such emotional and, often, financial trauma?

Now is a good time to remember the now-famous words from the movie Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Jordan Goodman, MD
Las Vegas, Nev

Dr. Charles responds: Baseless lawsuits “eat away at the heart of one’s calling”

Dr. Goodman expresses the deep and painful frustration physicians suffer when their personal and professional integrity is assaulted by accusations, especially baseless ones, of medical malpractice. I know these feelings intimately and how they eat away at the heart of one’s calling and commitment, as described in my book, Defendant: A Psychiatrist on Trial for Malpractice (Vintage, 1986).

Much of the progress achieved through recent tort reforms can be attributed to physicians’ reactions, such as that of a surgeon in one of our studies: “I decided I could be bitter or better and I decided on the latter.” These physicians have transformed their litigation trauma by working within their specialty society, state, and national medical organizations to achieve a better practice environment.

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