The legalities of healthcare

Peggy said that her recent fetal monitoring workshop (like all her workshops nowadays) focused heavily on avoiding lawsuits or at least making your behavior look good in the event of a lawsuit. I suppose the general public thinks that this fear of being sued keeps healthcare providers on their toes, but the truth is that working in a climate of fear creates an emotional distance between providers and their patients and hinders proper care in other ways as well. In Peggy’s specialty, for example, it results in a lot of unnecessary C-sections because doctors want to look like they did everything possible for their patients even though much of what is possible is also hazardous. C-sections, after all, are major surgery.

I suspect that some of the fear that nurses and doctors carry with them everyday (especially after they’ve been sued a time or two) partially accounts for the dehumanizing quality of modern medicine. Only those who have been sued can imagine what a nightmare it is, for only they have been through hundreds of hours of depositions, trial rehearsals, and testimony, that endlessly rehashes a few moments of time that were heartrending even if no one was in the wrong. And it can go on for years, destroying your reputation and costing you everything you own.

Going to court is like going to war in that right and wrong are irrelevant. Courts are about public relations; courts are places where the only thing that matters is how much money you have to spend on the cleverest lawyers and the most credentialed witnesses. To make things worse, really bad people have an invulnerability that really good people lack because really bad people have no ideals to lose. Really bad people never had the faith that, if you do your best, others will respect you for it and you will come out okay. Really bad people can remain unmoved in the presence of a baby that will never live a normal day; whereas really good people feel sickened and guilt-ridden even when they know it wasn’t their fault.