Surviving the Malpractice Storm

If you’re named in a malpractice suit, chances are you’ll go through every emotion, from denial to anger. But with these tips, you can get through it—with both your sanity and your career still intact.

By By Karen Childress | Feature Articles | Winter 2011


Peter Moskowitz

"Almost without exception, the physicians that I've watched go through this suffer terribly because of their own perfectionism." - Peter Moskowitz, M.D. is founder of the Center for Professional & Personal Renewal in Palo Alto, Calif.

Chicago ER physician George Hossfeld was notified that he’d been named in a malpractice suit more than two years after he’d stabilized an acutely ill elderly gentleman and admitted him to the ICU. Because his contact with the patient had been brief and he had provided appropriate care, Hossfeld assumed he’d be dropped from the case once the facts became clear to the plaintiff’s attorneys. “A good percentage of the time when a doctor is named in a case, he didn’t even see the patient, or was peripherally involved. You just wait to find out what’s going on.” In Hossfeld’s case, he waited five years to be dropped, only to find that ultimately he was on trial all alone, and that the plaintiffs were asking for damages beyond his malpractice coverage limits.

“It wasn’t fair, but fair has nothing to do with it,” he says. “It was very surprising to me, but right and wrong have little to do with it. Even more stunning, quality of care has little to do with it.”

“I went through stages like someone with a terminal diagnosis—disbelief, anger, rationalization (of course I’ll be dropped…), and then almost grieving. I was anxious and irritable. I felt like my home and my kids’ college might be on the line. I thought, well, if it’s been this unfair to this point, maybe I’ll be found guilty.”

“I like to think of myself as pretty tough ER doctor,” says Hossfeld. “After my six-day trial, I was just physically and emotionally limp. I was so drained, I felt ready to pass out.”

And Hossfeld—like the vast majority of doctors who end up on trial for medical malpractice—had won his case. more »


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Taking care of yourself through stressful times

By PracticeLink Staff | Web Exclusive


A lawsuit it the most professionally stressful experience physicians can encounter.

But how are you supposed to manage that stress when your lawyers tell you to talk about the case to no one, even though you desperately need to unload the anxiety?

Peter Moskowitz, M.D., is a professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, a certified coach, and founder of the Center for Professional & Personal Renewal inPalo Alto, Calif.

In PracticeLink Magazine’s article, “Surviving the Malpractice Storm,” Moskowitz says that physicians facing lawsuits need to make self-care theirprimary goal.

His advice on how to begin that is provided in this short video.


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The Necessity of “Asset-Protected” Investments

In these uncertain times, be careful not to leave your assets vulnerable to malpractice judgments.

By Jason O'Dell, Stan Miller, JD, and David B. Mandell, JD, MBA | Legal Matters | March/April 2009 | Uncategorized


We have been helping the medical community shield assets from potential lawsuits for years. While we often establish sophisticated trusts, limited partnerships, captive insurance companies, and even offshore arrangements to protect our clients’ assets and help them save taxes, often we need not be that creative.

In many states, the law gives us tremendous opportunities to protect wealth and lessen income taxes—through life insurance vehicles and annuities. If shielding your net worth from a potential lawsuit is important to you—and if you would like to pay less in income taxes—you must consider these tools as part of your financial plan. The question then becomes: if you have a choice between two fairly equal investments, why not use the one that is asset-protected and enjoys special tax treatment under the law? The wise choice is to make use of the asset-protected, tax-deferred investment. Let’s see how that works. more »


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Kid Gloves

You've heard it all before, but communication, courtesy, and respect will build patient loyalty - and minimize risk.

By Judy Capko | March/April 2009 | Practical Management


The threat of a potential malpractice suit is never far away. Start with the patients—they are less loyal, less trustful, and more demanding than they were in days gone by. These attitudes can quickly turn to anger, frustration, and pointing fingers when their expectations aren’t meant. Take heed, good doctors, having the best training and clinical skills is not enough! Protecting yourself from risk involves the actions and non-actions of everyone in the practice.

A common-sense approach to risk management deals with many aspects surrounding patient care—the way you operate your practice. If you give these matters the attention they deserve, it will go a long way in keeping you out of court. Let’s look at what you can do to reduce the potential risk. more »


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