[ Friday, March 05, 2004 ]


Physician Backlash: a physician client recently asked me about the propriety of investigating potential new patients to see if they've filed malpractice lawsuits in the past. She had heard of some doctors doing searches, and had heard that some doctors were interested in putting together a company to compile medical malpractice lawsuit information that could be accessed by other doctors wanting to know whether to take on a particular patient. The concept caused me some vague discomfort, but if there's no physician-patient relationship, it's not patient abandonment. And doctors aren't "common carriers" who have to serve anyone who walks through the door, any more than lawyers are. Shouldn't doctors be able to say no to professional plaintiffs who are just setting the doctor up for a malpractice lawsuit? Sure, you catch some people in that net who aren't professional plaintiffs and who were truly hurt by a bad physician, but is that the fault of the doctor doing the checking? If the system weren't so broken and trial lawyers weren't so brazen, the argument goes, doctors wouldn't have to resort to this.

As reported in the New York Times (registration required), there's a new website up now doing just that.

UPDATE: I saw articles on this in the Wall Street Journal and on the local TV news here in Dallas. Plaintiffs, plaintiff lawyers, and so-called "consumer advocates" complained that these plaintiffs were just exercising their constitutional rights to seek redress in the courts for perceived or actual wrongs. I couldn't agree more, and would never try to prevent their freedom to access the courts. However, just as anyone has the constitional free speech right to shout racist epithets on the street corner, people must be prepared for the reactions of others to the exercise of those rights. The doctors also have a constitutional right not to take on any patients they don't want to serve (at least since slavery was abolished), but nobody's complaining about this violation of their rights.

Now, the website has been shut down. Which is too bad; I would have liked for this fight to linger in the public eye for a while.

Jeff [10:59 AM]

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