As for the physician who poisoned me—no physician reported it to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). Not only did they not report it, they covered it up. It took me two years to figure out that my kidney disease was a result of the medicine the physician had prescribed. The statute of limitations on malpractice was three years, then. In the remaining year, I was not able to find a lawyer to take the case. Without a malpractice settlement, the taxpayers have paid a quarter of a million dollars for my care. Since then, the New York State Legislature has changed the statute of limitations for filing a malpractice suit: it is now two and a half years. You have less time to get your act together, not more.
Bad physicians are hurting their patients. Good physicians know it and do not report it. When patients report it, the official body does nothing. Consequently, on the rare occasion when a malpractice case goes to trial, the jury is drawn from the 6600 people who filed complaints and were ignored. They are mad, and they award large settlements.
If physicians want their malpractice insurance to go down, they should start policing their profession. Doctor, if you want to put a cap on malpractice settlements, call the OPMC when you see a patient who has been damaged by a physician. Put civilian investigators and judges on the OPMC. Extend the statute of limitations. Will it make the practice of medicine harder for a physician? Well, let’s just say it will make the practice of medicine nicer for the patient. Remember the patient? That’s the person who’s paying the bill. In what other industry does the consumer pay without having any control over the quality of the product?
Otherwise, I recommend a Union of Patients. How do you think the practice of medicine would be changed if the 6600 patients whose complaints were ignored formed a union? Patients go alone into their physician’s offices and each patient thinks that he or she is the only one who’s had a problem. How about we set up a website, patient-to-patient, where we can report problems with physicians?
How about we bring the practice of medicine under consumer control?
Doctor, I don’t expect you to know how to cure me. It is the human condition. I will die of something sometime, and you won’t be able to prevent it. I accept that.
What I will not accept is your failure to treat me with respect. I will not accept it—
- When you keep me sitting in your waiting room for two hours.
- When I am in crisis and you do not return my phone calls.
- When you order tests and don’t pick up the results.
- When the test results are abnormal and you don’t notify me.
- When I tell you something is wrong and you don’t believe me.
- When you make a mistake and don’t apologize.
- When you tell me you’ll do something, then don’t.
- When you walk into the treatment room without knowing my name.
- When you interrupt me while I’m talking.
The OPMC is judging the quality of the medicine practiced. Human beings judge the quality of the humaneness with which it is practiced.
I have some suggestions to reduce the size of medical malpractice settlements.
- Physicians must publicly post the names and addresses of their mothers so patients can file complaints with them.
- Once a week, each physician must dine in a patient’s home—and be on time for dinner. Friends don’t sue their friends.
- No physician can vacation outside the country without approval by a majority of his patients.
- Every Tuesday, from noon till 3:30 p.m., each physician must scrub his own office.
- The priest, pastor, imam or rabbi of the physician’s choice must annually certify how many hours the physician has spent in community worship.
- Any physician wishing to build an in-ground swimming pool for himself must also build one for the inner city kids.
- No physician who has had less than six hours of uninterrupted sleep the previous night may report for work.
- All parking spaces within one block of the physician’s office will be reserved for patients; the physician will park two blocks away.
What I propose is that physicians return to life in the community. The community will then stop punishing them.