Monday, April 2, 2012

Ambulance chasing law suits

There are more lawyer jokes I think that any other profession, maybe except golf jokes. 'What do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start.' Ha, ha.

I am not a lawyer, I am a marketing person who also works in the non profit world. There is an overlap there. For a few years I worked for a legal non profit promoting continuing education for attorneys. Through that job, I met MANY lawyers. Most of them were nice normal people practicing law (why do lawyers and doctors practice when the rest of us work?) but some of them were not in it for altruistic reasons, they were in it for the money. You could tell. But I digress.

The one thing that I really detest about the practice of law is the ambulance chasing syndrome. I read a book recently by a former attorney, now author (who's name escapes my chemo brain) about a law office near a bad intersection. At every accident at the intersection, they would run out and assess the litigation potential. It is not unknown. We also see the billboards near many cities - "Have you been subject to medical neglect? Did your doctors do you harm? Call us toll free and we can sue!' Lovely people, lovely premise.

But what really burns me up are the ones who focus on a cancer diagnosis. Did your doctor miss your tumor? We can sue! Did you know the odds of survival are lower for breast cancer detected at later stages? They promise to address 'delayed diagnosis due to doctor oversight'.  These people are the cause of rising malpractice premiums forcing doctors out of medicine. Thank you (not).

With someone with a couple of cancer diagnoses under my belt, I can tell you one of the biggest issues we have when facing a diagnosis is why didn't we get it ahead of time? Why, why, why? We spend many hours wondering why we were the ones with cancer, why they didn't find it sooner, and the big one - am I going to live? And the ambulance chasers prey on these fears and making it even more difficult to cope with the cancer roller coaster.

I am not saying that doctors never make mistakes - they are human after all. But a tumor has to reach a certain size before it is detectable by current technology. There are also many more benign tumors than malignant tumors. Sometimes mediation is needed and possibly litigation but that is not the correct way to address a medical error. Start with a conversation and not a lawsuit.

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