By the time you reach age 55, 18% of your pediatrician colleagues – or you yourself – will have been sued for malpractice. As many as 64% of your brother and sister obstetrician-gynecologists will have suffered the same fate. These numbers come from a pool of recent data released by the American Medical Association that suggest that nearly half of physicians in this country will be sued for malpractice by age 55 years.
I have read the AMA’s press release and the two studies several times and didn’t see a single reference to the emotional toll taken on the health care providers who have been sued. Of course, although it is easy to imagine that the human cost of a malpractice suit is probably high, it is not one of those figures that the number crunchers can find in their data sets and spreadsheets.
Although a case that goes to trial is unusual (7%), most cases like ours are won by defendants (87.5%). That number was of little or no reassurance to me and my codefendants. Every waking hour during the 7 years that it took our case to play out was darkened by the threat to my professional career. Every trip to the mailbox was an exercise in courage. Would there be another piece of voluminous communication to remind me of the terrible reality?