On being sued

Got a troubling phone call from a good friend of mine who was just notified that he's being sued by the family of one of his patients who passed away. I don't know any of the medical particulars of the case. I was more concerned about my friend who called me very upset this morning.

You definitely feel responsible for everything that happens to your patients -- even though things may happen that are entirely out of your control. I've never been sued myself, but I can only imagine what he's going through. You cannot help but second guess every decision of what happened. Especially in medicine, there is a lot of grey -- meaning, a lot of judgment calls that need to be made. It's not a slam dunk science that this absolutely needs to happen or that absolutely needs to happen.

With all kinds of lawsuits happening these days, it's difficult to decide to DO something or NOT to do something. Everytime you go and get your prescription drugs these days, you get three pages or more of a side effect profile -- any one of those can happen to your patient -- thereby, they'll be blaming you for the outcome.

On the other hand, what happens if all the signs are iffy and you want to take a wait and see posture? For the most part, the body does heal itself naturally without drugs (like antibiotics) and other treatments we prescribe. What if something bad happens when you do nothing?

Let me reiterate again, I do not know anything of the medical circumstances of this case, and of course, the family of this patient is going through a lot of suffering right now.

It's just that something that is not talked about publicly or privately -- even among doctors themselves -- are our emotions and how we would deal with something like this. He's going through a lot too, and I'm worried about him.