All Articles

Suing Our Doctors

How Long Can We Go On Punishing Our Doctors?


So is it actually beneficial to sue our doctors? Does it accomplish what it’s supposed to? I mean it’s punishment isn’t it? Similar to when your child does something they shouldn’t have and so you punish them hoping to teach them a lesson.

How many of us appreciate being punished for things we did wrong in life? I grew up being mostly raised by mom. She wasn’t the punishing type and I assure you I wasn’t the well-behaved, quiet child. She would talk things out, present me with options, talk me through what I did wrong… gosh, the energy she spent doing that day in and day out. I would think just ‘punishing’ me would be so much easier.

I see people punishing their dogs. I see them pulling on the leash, yelling at the dog, grabbing their face and all sorts of other ‘behavioral modification’ methods.

We punish significant others with silent treatments or hurtful comments. We punish parents by not letting them see their grand kids. We punish patients by not seeing them when they are late to their appointments. We also punish the law breakers by smearing their criminal record and jailing them.

I guess the important question is does punishment work. I’m certainly not the first person to ponder this question and there are countless research articles and op-ed pieces on this. What it comes down to is fear, guilt, blame and convenience (yes, I didn’t mention $).

We have a fear of doctors going crazy and having sex with their patients, prescribing Zoloft instead of Zofran, killing babies and taking out wrong kidneys. We (as patients) feel guilty if we don’t do something about a wrong we experienced because what if it happens to someone else. We have to have someone or something concrete to blame because we are raised to not make mistakes. Mistakes must be pointed out, corrective action must be taken and someone must be blamed. Finally we have simple minds that look for simple solutions, conveniently looking for one action that fits all.

Allowing time for medical schools to adjust and perhaps initiate personality tests to better differentiate candidates takes too much time. Having a sit down session with a 3rd party and talking it out with the offending physician is too tedious and too personal… too emotional. Guilt is a horrible thing to carry around, it’s so much better to disperse it, dilute it. Fear and blame go together. We blame as a response to our fears which we accumulate over the years and carry with us as baggage.

Humans will make mistakes. Doctors are humans. Punishment does not decrease mistakes. Fear of a lawsuit only masquerades mistakes or even worse leads to defensive medicine. Forgiveness and effective feedback are the most powerful tools to hone our doctors. If we keep suing and blaming our doctors we will find ourselves in… oh wait, we’re already in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.