The specialty and percentage of those surveyed who were sued broke down like this. (Full list here):
1. Internal Medicine (15 percent)
2. Family Medicine (13 percent)
3. Ob/Gyn (9 percent)
4. Psychiatry (8 percent)
5. Cardiology (6 percent)
6. Gastroenterology (6 percent)
7. Pediatrics (5 percent)
8. Emergency Medicine (4 percent)
About 75 percent of the doctors who were sued said they were astonished to learn that they were being sued. Only 1 percent said they definitely expected a lawsuit, according to the report, Medical Malpractice: The Experience of Being Sued by the health carewebsite Medscape.
In all, there were 3,500 respondents with about 1,400 — or 40 percent — who reported being sued for malpractice.
Medscape says its numbers are in line with other recent studies. More than 42 percent of doctors have been sued for malpractice over their careers, according to an American Medical Association survey in 2010.
“The specter of being sued for medical malpractice is never far from the minds of physicians,” the report stated. “Even when doctors do everything right, any patient can suffer a serious complication or poor outcome that might lead to a lawsuit.”
Other notable survey results include:
– 29 percent of physicians said they no longer trust patients and treat them differently.
– 93 percent said saying “I’m sorry” would not have helped.
– 35 percent of lawsuits were “failure to diagnose”
– 17 percent of lawsuits were “failure to treat”
– 57 percent of plaintiffs received no monetary award
– 80 percent said other physician-defendants or hospitals were also named in the lawsuit against them
– 20 percent said they were the only one named.
“The shotgun lawsuit is standard operating procedure,” Dr. Richard E. Anderson, chairman and CEO of The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest professional liability carrier for physicians, based in Napa, Calif., said in the Medscape report.. “Many attorneys will name everyone in the building that day, and then winnow the crowd.”
But Shay Samples, a plaintiff’s lawyere at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton in Birmingham disagrees that it is a widespread tactic, at least in Alabama.
“The shotgun approach, I don’t know of any reputable law firm that would use that,” Samples told AL.com.
Samples said Alabama sets a high bar to prove malpractice, including the requirement of a “mirror-image” expert. In other words, if you are suing a board-certified emergency doctor, you would need expert testimony from a board-certified emergency doctor.
“We are turning down 95 percent of the cases that come in here,” Samples said. “It’s crazy for a plaintiff’s lawyer to file an iffy case in Alabama.”
Samples said there’s no doubt getting sued is a stressful event for doctors. “But it’s also stressful for the patient and the patient’s family as well.”
Medscape from WebMD is a part of WebMD Health Professional Network that includes theHeart.org and eMedicine.com.