The New York Times recently reviewed a book by Dr. Danielle Ofri “What Doctors Feel” exploring the universe of physician’s emotions and their implication for the world of health care.  Would anyone be shocked to learn that we are human beings with powerfully human reactions to the pain and suffering we experience as part of our daily rounds? 

Ofri points to the particular experience of being sued for malpractice.  As someone who has personally been the recipient of such actions it is not an understatement to underline the power that such an experience has on the practitioner and their overall emotional well-being.  It is a life altering trauma.  It causes even the most competent and well-balanced physician to question their own abilities and to rage at a system which actually encourages such actions.  Ofri apparently (I have not read the book yet) writes of her own bitterness and despair over being sued and the sense of betrayal (yes, betrayal). 

It results from the consequence of deeply committing oneself to the healing process and being blamed when outcomes are imperfect.  She offers the analogy to a death and the healer’s subsequent grieving of a loss of innocence–one based on a naive belief that best intentions and efforts should rule the day. 

The physician’s response to being sued are often downplayed.  “They should be used to it by now” or “that’s why they have malpractice insurance” or “they’re rich and arrogant anyway”…..  The reality is quite different.  It changes the healer in a profound way.  Trust is lost in the process.  Compliments from patients are not viewed as trustworthy.  Thoughts of leaving the profession are abundant. 

 There are ways of dealing with patient dissatisfaction and poor outcomes.  They can take into account the litigious nature of American society and yet de-traumatize the experience for physician/healers.  If not don’t be shocked if your healer is in need of healing. 

How does that make you feel now?

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