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When Patients Sue Doctors: How Communication Could Help

When Patients Sue Doctors: How Communication Could Help

Some months ago, the receptionist in my clinic handed me a registered letter. The name of the sender seemed familiar. "Dear Sir," the letter read. "Please be advised that this letter serves as official notice that I am considering a potential claim against you in a medical Malpractice claim in regard to my husband. . . ." I stood, stunned. My white coat, which held the daily tools of my profession - my list of patients, the Sanford antibiotic manual, a black stethoscope - felt extraordinarily heavy.

While my receptionist and staff made themselves busy and waited for my reaction, I struggled to recall the patient, so many patients ago . . . and my alleged misdeed. I checked the administrative data, which showed that the man had died about a year before. Had I missed a lab test among the hundreds that I order each week? Had I failed to read a blood culture report? Had some error of mine resulted in his death?

Continue reading about my personal experience with our medical malpractice system - and how simple communication might help -- at The Washington Post.

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