Saturday, May 13, 2006

"I'm suing that doctor! I'm going to make him pay!"

The patient is furious. What should I say? Every word will be subpoenaed. Think, Shrinkette. Think some more...okay, a question:

"Why are you suing your doctor?"

"Because I needed him, and he was not there for me!"


(Afterthought: am I there for my patients? Am I there for this patient? I'm thinking about how I'm going to be subpoenaed...)

8 Comments:

Blogger Palmdoc said...

Good call :)

4:06 PM  
Blogger shrinkette said...

The danger is that all her doctors are likely to be on the defensive now. Above, I see how I was not "there for her" as much as I could have been.

5:26 PM  
Blogger johnnydee said...

How much can anybody really expect their doctor to be there for them? There are only so many hours in the day and you only have 2 hands.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Spiritual Emergency said...

a.) Not every practicing clinician is a "good" clinician.

b.) Not every disgruntled patient has a hairtrigger waiting to go off.

That said I can't help but wonder, what does this mean: "... he was not there for me" because that appears to be the crux of the problem. The client is expressing a sense of betrayal and abandonment, but given the neccessary lack of details there's no way of knowing whether or not her expression and the expectation it's based on is valid and reasonable.

Nonetheless, whoever serves in the capacity of her next physician should surely determine what being "there for me" means to her and then determine if they can meet that expectation. Come to think of it, every client and their caregiver should have that little chat if at all possible.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous difficult patient said...

Hmmmmm, I needed my doctor (badly), and he dismissed me. In fact, he refused to see me without giving me 30 days notice . . .and I didn't sue. My point is--not everyone sues their doctor, even if they are upset enough to toy with the thought. Sometimes people just need to vent . . .Maybe your patient should start a blog. ;o)

8:06 PM  
Blogger Spiritual Recovery said...

difficult patient: Hmmmmm, I needed my doctor (badly), and he dismissed me

It must get terribly tichy. After all, a therapeutic relationship is precisely that -- a relationship.

Oftentimes, it's formed during a period of crisis when a body is inclined to want to lean on something of stability. To have that point of stability withdrawn or pulled away can certainly incite a sense of betrayal and re-ignite any wounds that might be related to lack of worth, value, placement of trust, etc.

On the other side, it creates anxiety within future caregivers -- it must be like being the guy who dates the girl whose last boyfriend was a complete and utter jerk. One can't help but be a bit on edge.

You do seem to have managed your own transition although I'm sure it was not without its difficulties. In hindsight, you might even recognize that whoever that caregiver was, they weren't the one for you. Sometimes, like a really bad date, that's what it boils down -- a horrible fit. Perhaps there should be a matchmaker service for human beings who are seeking the services of someone to lean on during their times of difficulty.

[Great blog, btw. I've been there several times of late.]

9:34 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

Shrinkette: I meant to post this a week ago, but because of computer problems I couldn't. This message is an act of faith: I hope you will read it and appreciate the sentiments.

I think many people expect more than what their doctors can give. The case of the habitually abrasive clinician is rare. As long as you don't see patients as lab mice, you won't go far wrong.

The day I saw this, I had attended a support group where a fellow was angry because, when he'd called his doctor at 5:45pm for a refill of some pain medication for his hernia, she passed the word that he should go to the emergency room.

An ER visit for medication! he cried. She doesn't care about me.

I told him that maybe there were other factors. This was a new flareup, yes? She hadn't examined him in a while. And he was in great pain. Maybe, I suggested, she wanted a physician to look at him and administer tests right away just in case it was something like an infection or a bodily organ sticking through the hole?

His mouth formed a big O. What might have been done better on the doctor's part was to tell him exactly why she was sending him to the ER. But I don't think she didn't care about him.

I understand what you are after, shrinkette: understanding on the part of the patient. That is what the cry of "she doesn't care about me" often means.

12:10 AM  
Blogger THOUGHTS FROM THE HEADOC said...

Face it. Threats of being sued have become an everyday reality. All one can do is all one can do. Then document well. I read about a case where a psychiatrist lost not because the patient killed themselves while on a pass from the hospital, but because he didn't document assessing the patient for potential suicide on that particular day. Just having documented that fact would have cleared his liability even if he had doumented that the benefit of the therapeutic outing outweighed the risk of suicide.

10:46 PM  

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