Depression for doctors who experience malpractice suits

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Doctors are feeling the pain. According to a new study, malpractice lawsuits against surgeons take a profound personal toll on the health of the surgeon, including emotional exhaustion stress and ultimately, professional dissatisfaction.

Researchers looked at personal and professional characteristics and found malpractice lawsuits were strongly and independently linked to depression more than other events. The stress resulting from litigation was equal to financial distress, pressure to succeed, quality of life conflicts and coping with patient suffering and death. Furthermore, at a time when the US is projecting a decline in the medical profession, doctors who experienced malpractice lawsuits are less inclined to recommend medicine as a career path.

“The frequency of malpractice lawsuits and the adverse associations they have significantly impact surgeons’ personal health, yet these consequences are often poorly understood,” said Charles M. Balch, MD, PhD, FACS, lead author and professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The purpose of the study was to examine these repercussions more closely and pave the way for additional research to identify individual, organizational and societal interventions to support surgeons who experience malpractice litigation.”

Of the 7,164 doctors who participated in the study, over 25% of them had experienced medical malpractice litigation in the 24 months prior to the survey. They were more likely to be younger, male, work longer hours and be in private practice.

More than 42% of all doctors, including surgeons, have been sued. In 2008 the total cost of these suits was $55.6 billion or 2.4% of total health care costs.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of the American College of Surgeons

 
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