The Doctor’s Advocate | First Quarter 2019
I had the pleasure and the good fortune/misfortune of attending a recent event in Houston organized by The Doctors Company. A small group discussion had been assembled of physicians insured by The Doctors Company who are actively involved in lawsuits. The company had convened this meeting of the minds of sorts to discuss something far more important: how physicians feel when they are involved in litigation and how they should work while going through this trial and tribulation.
As a member of this small group, I, too, am involved in a lawsuit. As about a dozen physicians discussed their feelings, it became obvious to me that we had each gone through a great deal.
We noted feelings of helplessness, sadness, betrayal, disgust, annoyance, anger, confusion, fear, and loss. These reactions were common. Each physician had learned to temper their responses to these feelings.
I offered the group something that has helped me over the last 12 years. I am a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and have a diverse number of patients and cases. As I have completed cases over the years, patients have given me accolades and thanks. Their simple thanks have powered me through. First, it was the hugs. Then it was the cards. I have been fortunate to get dozens and dozens of cards. I have taped them to a wall in my office and refer to it as the “Wall.”
On the Wall, I find a note from a young girl whose arm was saved from necrotizing fasciitis as she fought acute lymphocytic leukemia and had no white count. There is a note from a fellow physician whose elevated intracranial pressure caused him to be on the verge of brain death. There are notes from school kids, thanking us for saving their friends. There are notes from parents, thanking us for the life of their loved one and their promised future. I even have notes from parents as their kids have grown up, and I now have a chance to see what they look like. I have softballs from kids’ first home runs after they learned to wield a bat with fewer fingers. I have pictures from their proms.
The Wall has enabled me to see what I have been able to achieve and accomplish over the years. As opposed to an architect, whose achievements remain stationary, my trophies are walking around in the community. Whenever the day gets heavy and a situation becomes difficult, I do my best. When the staff leaves, I grab a cup of coffee and sit in front of the Wall. I look through the notes and regain my smile. I cry a bit for my specialty and for my field because I know we are fading as the world is changing. The ability to heal and care is now falling far behind keeping up with the numbers and the business of medicine. The staff knows this too, but they do me the honor and the favor of continuously adding cards and notes that come in. The Wall continues to grow.
I am proud to be a physician and a surgeon. I do not believe I had any idea the job would be this difficult when I started. Maybe it wasn’t back then. Listening to so many fellow physicians that day in Houston, I realize that I am not alone in my feelings—but, by the same token, I have my Wall.
I would ask each and every physician out there to make their own Wall. Let it help you remember why you became what you became. Maybe in that way, we can help medicine once again become more of an art and less of a business.
The Doctor’s Advocate is published by The Doctors Company to advise and inform its members about loss prevention and insurance issues.
The guidelines suggested in this newsletter are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. They attempt to define principles of practice for providing appropriate care. The principles are not inclusive of all proper methods of care nor exclusive of other methods reasonably directed at obtaining the same results.
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